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No creature half so terrifying as a truly just man (Stannis SI, ASOIAF)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Black Fyre, Jul 1, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Stannis?
    Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    "Only a kind person is able to judge another justly and to make allowances for his weaknesses.
    A kind eye, while recognizing defects, sees beyond them."
    Lawrence G. Lovasik​


    Stannis?
    Storms End
    283 AC

    A small voice, no a lean voice beckoned to me from the aether. "Brother, please get up! Don't leave me here by myself."

    Another voice, older with a mix of gentle reproach and understanding answered him. "And where am I young Renly, if not right behind you?"

    From what I somehow knew without thinking was a sick bed I could see the image of the elder maester. Slightly hunched, but surprisingly spry when he chose to be, Maester Cressen still had a good deal of life in him yet. Though if this siege continued much longer I feared that he and my young brother would be among the first casualties. They certainly would die even sooner if I didn't get up from this blasted bed and see to the morale of my troops.

    Another thought struck me then. How the hell did I get behind the walls of Storms End in yet another blasted war caused by the foolish greed and unchecked passions of so called great lords? The last thing I remembered was going to bed after a double shift at the Court of Appeals at 45 Monroe Place. The same building I worked at for the better part of 20 years as a clerk alternating between the offices of the public defender and prosecution.

    I could feel another consciousness just beneath the surface of my own. Memories that had no real context or made any sense then flooded into my mindscape. They showed me the various relevant relationships between my family and those who resided in a place called "Storm's End". After a few seconds I could recall the names and details of at least two hundred people and intimate facts of the residents just as quickly as those of my 'real' family or friends. Just as quickly I couldn't even say which 'reality' was closer to my heart. I felt myself sputter as my mind groaned to cope with it all.

    Something in back of my psyche sent a firm directive to me, reminding me of my time in the the N.R.O.T.C , U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy. A strong masculine presence almost seemed to shout at me the way my father would when he caught me slacking off instead of studying or training for a meet. In a firm voice that brooked no compromise or back talk it said "You were a combat soldier once, and once a soldier always a soldier. Worry about the reality of your existence later. First survive and do your duty to my family. My brothers and the realm are depending on you". For some reason I could feel how important a part of me considered the lives before me.

    My groan and cough must have been more audible than I realized because one of the knights guarding my room spoke.

    "See Renly, you didn't have anything to worry bout. It would take much more than some cowardly strike to vanquish Lord Stannis!" The speaker was Ser Harold Tarshen, a household knight aged about thirty years. He was wearing full armor, but I assumed even with a fighter's ration he was rather gaunt under the plate. His unhelmeted hair displayed a salt and pepper handlebar mustache and what looked like mutton chop sideburns. It was probably meant to make him look fierce, but not everyone could pull off the Tywin or Wolverine look.

    I remember Renly saying he looked more like a mummer than the fierce boar he wished to appear as. No one had the heart or the lack of common sense to inform Ser Harold of that fact, as he was truly fucking deadly with fist, long sword or great sword. Though I suspected he saw my kid brother snickering when he wasn't looking.

    "He'd better. Some of the men look at me funny. I think they want to eat me," said the third Baratheon in a slightly stronger tone.

    I could still hear the fear in his frail voice's undertone though. Worse I could see his increasingly distended belly.

    Suddenly I felt intensely angry at the people responsible for this situation. Said sacks of suet were Lord Mace Tyrell of the Reach and Rheagar Targaryen, for I would never again call him or any of his line a prince. Most of all I burned with a hate I never knew, in what my soul told me was my past life, for his mad father who was no kind of king at all. If the rumors were true, and I knew they certainly were, Aerys was a beast in human skin worse than the Mountain that Rides or even his predecessor, the so called Smiling Knight.

    To be honest some of my ire was directed at Brandon Stark, his father, John Aryn and yes even my elder brother Robert. For while Robert was right to defend his betrothal, both sets of my emotions seriously doubted he even knew what the words matrimonial monogamy or genuine affection were. It was likely he couldn't even spell the words, and I meant that literally as Stannis knew the sex obsessed, alcoholic jock was barely literate. The elder Starks while justified in their anger were bloody fools to ride into Kings Landing and even more mad than Aerys to insult an man so beloved of cruel torture to his face! All this largely came about because the bloody eagle was so quick to join hands with the sly wolf to hedge bets on the Iron Throne in the false belief they had all the angles covered. Now my little brother was dying by inches while they played politics or danced about like knights from some cursed song.

    No that shit wasn't happening, not while I could do something about it! I calmed myself and took a deep breath as I rose from my bed and rubbed my head. There was no need for wrath or a harsh face when dealing with people I both trusted and cared about. While Renly might one day become a vain and callow sop, that day was a far while off and I had a great many opportunities to monkey wrench such a fate. Stannis could never show affection to anyone, even himself and that probably explained a great many of his problems. The death of his parents had scarred him in a way I frequently observed in the people who came before the judges whose cases I participated in. I however, had a large family and I knew how to get along with them even during our worst times.

    I sat up and looked at the little boy, who was by Westorosi social standards a late teenager despite being biologically six and how frail the lack of food made him appear. Renly's pupp eyes widened and he slowly came within two feet of me but stopped. I was sure the distance was something the damn stone face bastard had enforced to 'toughen' the boy up. Well fuck that noise! I reached over and pulled Renly into a hug. I could feel the how close the bones were to his and my own ribs through our rough spun clothes. One thing I could appreciate about Stannis was he insisted that he and his officers share the burdens of his men. We had done away with our fancy clothes the minute the siege looked to be upon us and took the same food and rations as the others. I would credit it to why we has lasted this long.

    Stifling my re-stoked rage. I put on a somewhat pleasant voice which cracked somewhat from my injury and lack of proper diet.

    "That's because you look so tasty little brother!" I said then before I complimented my hug with a ruffle of Renly's limp black hair. Renly looked at me a moment in complete shock. To be honest so did the other three men in the room; the maester and my two guards. A part of me sent a cautionary warning about seeming off, but I shut it up with a firm thought. Said firm thought included a few choice words learned in the United States Navy.

    I looked at his concerned face and said "A joke dear brother, We all know that Baratheon meat is tough and like to break the teeth of any fools that dare take a bite." A second passed before a small laugh came from the cracking lips of Renly. It was followed a few seconds later by Ser Harold and the man at arms Lorrimer Halfdon. For a good half minute the room was filled with awkward laughter as my little brother hugged me with all the strength his body was capable of. That so much power still resided in a body that young in the midst of a siege was a testament to Baratheon dna. Tears came down his eyes and the rage in my guts burned like hydrochloric acid.

    It must have shown as the three adults stopped their mirth and stood at attention. Renly quickly joined them, but I let him continue to hold me. It was then that Maester Cresson continued to speak.

    "You are as healthy as my arts can confirm. Your skull was not broken by Ser Doman's cowardice. He and the other surviving mutineers await your judgment." I nodded at Cresson as it was as much a token of appreciation of a job well done as the affection miser usually granted. Then I turned to the small bundle of young manhood hugging my waist. I was never the broadest of men but this siege had wasted a good amount of my vigor. I would have to rectify both issues as soon as possible as this war would require me in my best form.

    "Do you intend to finish what Ser Doman started little brother?" I asked in a amused voice. The boy stopped, released me and looked up at me. His face attempting to read the intent of my words. Part of me cursed Stannis for causing the boy to doubt his intentions toward his little brother. That isn't how a man should treat his brother, hell even a dog deserved better. I knew he never laid a hand of violence on him, but at times words or even gestures cut deeper than knives. A weak series of subliminal messages 'for his own good, weakness is unbecoming the son of a lord, the world is harsh, don't be naïve you have seen what men have done' passed through me. A simple 'EXCUSES!' silenced the mental messages.

    Then I smiled. For a second it must have startled the boy because honestly Stannis never smiled, but Renly must have read my intent because he relaxed a second later. My right hand wiped the tears from each of his eyes while my left firmly gripped his chin ensuring we maintained eye contact. My words were firmly said, but with no threat or harsh undertone.

    "Renly. Please listen and believe what I'm saying to you. There is never a time when you should ever fear me. I am your brother and while I live no harm will befall you. If you have done wrong I will punish you, but it is for your own good not because I hate you." I continued with more emphatic pronunciation. It was like I was a lawyer in one of my cases trying to get an innocent man off death row. Renly needed to believe what I was saying as much as Stannis needed to make the words real.

    "I love you brother. Robert loves you. We are doing this, fighting this war so you don't have to be afraid of someone taking what belongs to you because they are stronger or bigger than you. I know you don't understand but you know Robert and I would never put you in danger for a stupid or bad reason don't you?" I wondered if years of neglect and emotional abuse could be undone with mere platitudes. A second later I learned that small children will forgive almost anything when the naïve boy nodded his head. The back of my mind grimaced and seized up. 'Prevarication' and ' baseless supposition' came unbidden. Well despite his bias even he knew Robert would never consciously cause harm to Renly. Of course the truth was Robert Baratheons's first thoughts were rarely about anything not connected to bottle, spear or a vagina. But I was not trying to drive a deeper wedge between the members of this family and if a few white lies were needed to heal us then so be it.

    Renly's little voice grew steady. "I know that Lord Stannis" he said. Did stone face really have the kid call him Lord Stannis in private? "I'm just hungry and scared" they boy said as tears began forming in his eyes. "See what weakness you encourage. The garrison will turn on us should this continue. Discipline him for all our sakes" inner Stannis declared with contempt for my century's family values. I ignored that small nagging voice and went about it a different way.

    "Now now. Why cry? I'm alive, Robert is alive and we are going to win this war. Those tears tell everyone outside this door that you don't think Robert is winning. Does that sound like something a Baratheon should do?" The little boy wiped his tears and looked at me. .

    "No. No it does not. We must all do our duty. It is the duty of the soldier to fight and may haps die for a vic.. victory that he may never see. It is the duty of those who do not fight to support the fighters with their labor. It is the duty of those who lead to show courage and good judgement lest those they lead loose faith and the war be lost. I will do my part Lord Stannis. I won't shame our family" the brave boy said as his spine stiffened. Renly looked at me with a gaze I knew was reverence and stood firmly as I let his chin go.

    "When it is just us together like this call me brother," I said. Then I mussed his coarse black hair and bent down to kiss his forehead. Renly's mouth opened in shock, but he buried his head in my chest with another hug a second later.

    "I love you brother," was more felt than heard from Renly's small voice reverberating near my heart.

    "I love you more Renly," came unbidden and I think the gasp I heard might have been from one of the adults.

    It was then I turned to face the slack jawed faces of the men in front of me. The fact that they were surprised by this display of brotherly affection actually made me angry. My face returned to its lordly state and they became flustered and stood at attention. All but Maester Cressen, who looked at me quizzically.

    "No, I haven't been replaced by a Snark or Grumkin. Lorrimer, kindly fetch my armor and sword. I have judgment to deliver. Renly, compose yourself! You will accompany me. I think too many have forgotten our house words. Shall we remind them of what they are?" I turned to the little boy whose face hardened as he remembered what almost happened to me.

    "Ours is the Fury brother!" he said without hesitation in a timber that implied no quarter for our houses' enemies.

    I was honestly shocked that such a small voice could convey such sang froid. Kids grew up fast in Westeros, didn't they.

    "Ours is the Fury indeed," I replied and I had a very good idea how to display it to the world outside our gates.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
  2. PEETERTHAGOD

    PEETERTHAGOD Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    This applies more to Brandon since Rickard went to KL to plead his son’s case
    Robert didn’t actually rebel until Aerys demanded his head so he didn’t really rebel out of defending his betrothal.
     
  3. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    That one is somewhat a case of semantics. Rheagar touched his waifu, blood was going to flow with or without Areys' little incompetent order 66 analog. In fact as Aerys wasn't going to back down and make Rhaegar pony up Lyanna that was probably a 'smart' move considering how the little frackas on the Trident went.

    Rheagar was a good Tourny Warrior. Robert is fucking stone cold killer.

    And the fact Rickard couldn't keep a muzzle on his heir doesn't speak well to either his governing or parental skills. I wont even go into how his children view the world around them. I mean for such a political schemer it seems he wasn't all that aware.
     
    MasterOfDragonsGod likes this.
  4. PEETERTHAGOD

    PEETERTHAGOD Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I don’t understand how Brandon being a hot head reflects his parenting or governing skills. Tywin was as good of an administrator and political schemer his kids (two of them) are idiots and he wasn’t able to find out his kids were fucking. Ned was as good of a father as one could be in that world and his kids made stupid mistakes. Rickard wasn’t even with Brandon when he ran away so there’s literally no way he could stop Brandon from going to KL
    Lyanna wasn’t his wife yet and as far as we know Robert was in no rush to call his banners when Lyanna disappeared, he was chilling at the eyrie with Ned and Jon.
     
  5. Alchto

    Alchto Like to play with pussy(cat)

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    Nothing against you mate but the title of this thread is atrocious
     
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  6. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    That was the quote used by Varys about Stannis.

    Used to be no creature half so terrifying, but some people didn't get the reference.
     
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  7. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Sure, but it could have been a bit shorter. Still, I'm curious to see where this goes.
     
  8. Alchto

    Alchto Like to play with pussy(cat)

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    It was more about the part about "half so terrifying" than anything else
     
  9. Alchto

    Alchto Like to play with pussy(cat)

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    I mean, it could be something like "No Creature is half as terrifying as an truly just man" or something.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Davos I
    Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    “Wilson had been killed by everybody. It was this that made his death special, the children had been told.
    It was justice, it was all the people
    showing how much they hated this crime.
    Killing was justice when everybody joined in.”
    Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger​

    Davos the Smuggler
    Storm's End
    Second Month of 283 After Conquest


    When Davos had been asked to stay after delivering what turned out to be his final load of smuggled fish, stale bread and onions the flea bottom smuggling legend was a might perplexed. When he had been told the reason why Davos was shocked. When he thought back over what Davos had witnessed and been part of that day the weary seaman's mind could not accept it, but the truth spoke for itself.

    Then

    He had arrived in the Sweet Mercy the night after the mutiny attempt and the near murder of his hopefully future patron. From what Davos heard a few more seconds and an inch of blade to the left and his gambit to improve the lives of his family would have gone up in smoke. Davos had been a smuggler for many years, a good one if he might say so himself. But there comes a time in every mans life when he realizes that luck and skill have hard limits, especially when one wrong turn or betrayal led to a long drop and a short stop.

    From what the onion smuggler knew the Rebellion was still anyone’s to win, even though the failure of the Targaryens to isolate and destroy Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Bells made a great many question the prospects of continued Dragon rule. And to be honest the increasingly erratic and frankly evil behavior of King Aerys and his son made Davos hope that prospect ended sooner rather than later. He personally cared little for the games of the highborn, but he had children and Davos wanted a sane and orderly world for them go grow up in.

    It was largely why he chose to ‘join’ the rebellion’s side. Well that and the fact said siege allowed him to gain a very favorable position. Lord Stannis chose his brother over his king and a man willing to stay loyal to family despite grave danger to himself was one he could respect. The fact Stannis and Robert would likely be generous to people who risked their lives to keep their little brother alive didn’t hurt either. The small boy looked lean when he had come to Davos claiming to be his brother’s page. The solemn air he had about him, despite the cracking voice and the fact he refused to rush at the food being unloaded before his wide eyes impressed the old salt as well.

    “Kindly come this way Captain Davos. My Lord Stannis wishes to speak to you before he passes judgment on the mutineers," Renly told him. He resisted the urge to rub the lordling’s head as Davos would if Renly were one his own children. Such a small child should not have to be dealing with such weighty issues.

    However, the more rational part of Davos knew better. He’d seen younger children forced to fight dogs in the street for scraps of moldy bread and known gangs of vicious youth the same age. Horrible situations and pain were readily found in the worlds of both lords and beggars. Romantic notions of a better world were best left to dreams.

    He found the Lord of Storm’s End alone before a pile of parchments. He could make out sketches of various implements, though for the life of him Davos couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to be. The largest drawing looked like some kind of chamber pot. There was also a hollow wooden tube with flanges and what looked like joinings. The things that lordlings found time to entertain themselves with never failed to confound the Flea Bottom native.
    His attention must have slipped because Davos didn’t notice when Stannis addressed him.

    “Oh never mind those things. They are important, but we have far weightier things to address good Captain” the tall, gaunt yet powerful lord said.

    Davos, realizing his mistake took a knee and a more reverent attitude. “Forgive me mi’lord Baratheon. I was only curious as to things that was none of me business,” he wisely replied. Surprisingly the blockade shriven man strode up to him, reached down and pulled the aging smuggler up gently by the shoulders. Although he was relatively narrow compared to his beast of a brother and more than half starved due to fairly sharing the rationing Stannis Baratheon was deceptively strong.

    “Please Ser Davos. You are the reason any of us are alive or still in this fight. When we are alone there is no need for you to bow. Address me as Lord Stannis or simply lord and we can speak easily and get to the point much more quickly.” Davos was taken aback. Rumors the smuggler trusted said Lord Stannis had always been brusque and direct, but he had never been friendly.

    “Ser?” came from Davos' lips without thinking. The word caught him and the lord a bit by surprise judging my the reaction written on the Lord’s face. Davos had survived on more than one occasion solely because of his ability to read men. The powerful one in front of him was shocked by his words, or by something. The smuggler couldn’t be sure.

    “Ahh, perhaps I spoke a bit too prematurely. Normally one asks the recipient if they desired to enter the service of a noble…” Davos did something he rarely ever did and cut off a highborn. He was not going to allow him to change his mind due to misinterpreting Davos' surprise for lack of interest.

    “Yes m’lord I will gladly serve you to the best of my abilities in any way I can.” He took a knee and bowed his head. When he heard a clearing of the throat he looked up to see Stannis looking down on him. There was a hardness on his face and for a minute Davos thought he had fucked up royally. Then Stannis smiled. It wasn’t a full grin, for that would probably have scared the life from Davos. For all Davos spoke to before coming to Storms End swore to the gods Stannis Baratheon never displayed mirth. Hell, they said the man never laughed or shared a jest since his parents’ death so many years ago.

    No, it was just a half smile, but it reached his eyes. Davo’s heart rate went back to normal. Though unconsciously his eyes turned toward the door and he counted how many steps it would take to reach it and then his ship. Then Stannis did laugh.

    “Ha, ha. Relax my good fellow. Take a seat and have some tea if you wish. I’m not going to punish you for showing enthusiasm to serve me, and coincidentally provide a better life for Mayra and your little ones.” Davos nearly fainted. How did he know about his family? Then he remembered the rumors. Before him was the man who knew how many men each lord had in all seven kingdoms.

    Sitting in the chair left vacant for him. The common thistle tea to his right held lemon and Stannis himself had partaken of it. As it would be bad form to deny the hospitality of a noble he took a sip himself.

    “Don’t worry I still intend to knight you though let me give you some advice. First it's considered poor form to cut off your lord in the midst of a speech even though we high born tend to be a might long winded." Stannis snickered, as to did Davos. With the ice broken the lord took another sip before he continued.

    "Second, never agree to anything before you hear the fine details. As an experienced and famous smuggler you should already know this Davos. If you agree to serve me I will never ask you to do anything heinous or reprehensible. I think we have had enough of that with the current arse on the Iron Throne and I suspect his son may take after him." He then fixed Davos an iron gaze.

    "Should you think I am heading in that direction I expect you to say something before it gets to the point someone needs to shove a sword in my back or drive a hammer through my ribs. Do you think you can do that?”

    Davos was confused by Stannis’s language but what he said made sense. It made more sense than most any lord he heard before. He found his head nodding.

    “Aye, if you want sound and honest council from me its yours. Only begging my lord’s pardon if you’d promise not to take me head or other parts for giving it when you don’t want to hear it.” Stannis laughed again and this time he had a full smile when he was done. Davos nearly spat out his tea. There were rumors that he took a blow to the head during the mutiny. Such blows were known to change men in odd ways.

    “Good, good. I so promise. Though that is contingent on your advice being well reasoned and not self serving tripe like just about all of the nonsense I hear every day. When my Brother triumphs I will be a prince and as such I have no intention of repeating Rheagar’s mistakes. I may have to tolerate the presence of flatterers and fools, but I want none of them in my own private council chamber.” He was quiet then.

    “I’m not the best spoken man, nor am book learned but I can think bettern a lot of common folk.” And a few lord’s sons turned customs agents is what he held back.

    “And quite a few lord’s sons play acting customs officials eh?” This time Davos did spit. The cloud of tea traveled a good foot and half, but well short of Lord Stannis. It was almost as if he planned this. Though still, spitting in front of your prospective lord was something that wasn’t done.

    “My lord..” Davos said quickly seeking the right words to rectify this etiquette error. Only Stannis stopped him by raised a hand for silence.

    “You underestimated me. Its ok, a lot of us high born do it all the time to 'small folk’ because we feel superior to them. Well not all of us have our heads up our asses Davos.” The lord did some funny motion with his hands as he said small folk that for some reason Davos found humorous. Well blows to the head were like that, and aside from that quirk Stannis seemed perfectly sane.

    “Of course that won’t do. Underestimating others is unacceptable because doing so leaves you vulnerable to critical errors. If you are advising me or carrying out my orders with such a mindset it could cost lives. Yours or my own. So you will do your best to treat everyone man, woman or child, rich or poor as a holder of sufficient intellect to be a threat. Is that clear?” Lord Stannis' face lost all joviality then.

    “Yes m’lord,” came from his lips. It was the only thing Davos could say and further it was right. Lord Stannis was right. That was the way he survived all those years at sea in foreign ports among cut throats and sly magisters.

    “Secondly, your lack of education is appalling. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t blame you or anyone else for not being able to read or write. I find it disgusting that basic education is kept from anyone. If more people could read and write our kingdom would be more productive." It was a thought Davos found interesting.

    "I can’t snap my fingers and make everyone able to understand the words of Maester Bael, but I can tell you one thing. Once this war is over every person who is under my service will be able to read and write to a acceptable level.” He pointed at Davos and the lord's eyes flashed with intensity.

    “That means you. Will. Learn. How. To. Read. And Write. You will also learn how to fight properly, ride a horse, court etiquette and a bunch of other tom fool things that have nothing to do with practical business and will bore the shit out of you. But those are the breaks of leaving a life of drudgery, bad drinking water and piracy!” At the last words out his prospective lord's mouth Davos found his lip involuntarily twisting into a frown.

    “What’s that soon to be Ser Davos? Did I say something that was wrong or foolish?” Davos looked at his face and instantly knew he was being tested. The lord was good at reading people, very good and he had set this meeting up. Davos took a breath and answered honestly, as anything else was likely to not end well.

    “Begging your lordship’s pardon, but I weren’t never a pirate.” The prospective prince of Westeros raised his right eyebrow as though he were expecting a more elaborate answer.

    “Kindly explain the difference then my friend. You evaded the king’s factors and brought in goods that were illegal. Stealing from the king is theft and stealing on the high seas is piracy no?” Davos’ eyes narrowed as he studied the man who would be his new lord. Stannis was known to value the law and justice and for him to ask these questions meant he wanted to know Davos’ understanding of the concepts.

    “For starters m’lord I never hurt anyone in my sailings. Yes I fought some people on the seas, real pirates who wanted to take my crew as slaves or rob me of my cargo. Those types are real pirates. But I never did any man violence who didn’t offer it to me."

    "And before you ask that includes the king’s factors. I always surrendered when they asked to board my ships. It's not my fault they never found anything worth arresting me for is it?” The damn Lord smiled again and nodded. Davos suspected Stannis already knew the answer before the lord asked the question it seemed.

    “So do you feel paying the kings tax isn’t something you are obliged to do? You do admit to not doing that right?”

    “Aye, I did keep the kings coin, to feed my family and the crew of my ships. I’ll admit that there were times I could have afforded it, but there were times sixty coppers was the difference between starving and half starving.” Still smiling Stannis replied in a deeper tone.

    “So desperation and honest need is an excuse for breaking the law, as long as you don’t hurt other people? I mean you didn’t smuggle slaves or weapons to wildlings unlike the captain you served under near East Watch after all. I’m also pretty sure that more than a few lords, the same ones sending their children to catch you, were involved in your operations. No victim, no harm, no real need for punishment. That about sum it up?”

    Davos sensed a trap. The penalty for theft under Aegon’s law was maiming. However this man didn’t look like he wanted to or was going to hurt him, and Davos had already damned himself with a confession. For starters he still needed Davos to keep feeding him and he already knew of his guilt. Though the hairs in the back of his neck were offering warnings. ‘Thread lightly but honestly here’ was the general gist.

    “I’ll say that leniency for those pushed to crime by hard circumstance would be in order m’lord. Tis not justice to lop off the hand of a starving man who steals a loaf of bread to feed his family because there is no honest work. Show me a man who would watch his children die of hunger and I’ll show you a craven dog.”

    Stannis didn’t laugh again but he nodded his head in appreciation of Davos' response.

    “Fair enough. I’ll waive the usual response that leniency only emboldens people with hard luck stories to rob shoppes. It usually ends with everyone stealing all the time and no move vendors opening their shoppes leading to the economy collapsing and everyone starving. It makes for a droll argument.”

    “It’s also bloody stupid”, Davos found himself saying without leave.

    “That too. It also leaves people who don’t have skills and without a limb forced to turn to either begging or more theft. We both know how that story ends. But let's look at it from a different angle," came from the now intrigued lord.

    "Would you say that rape, actual violent piracy and slaving are clearly evil and there is little to no excuse for committing those crimes?” Davos nodded to such a clear cut application of basic law.

    “Aye m’lord. A robber might steal from desperation to care for his ailing mother, but what makes his victims any less poor or deserving to feed their kin with their hard earned wages?”

    “And would you say that supporting slavers, robbers and rapers was a serious crime Davos? Is it right to punish people who made it easier for violent criminals to commit crimes or escape society's laws?” There it was again, another obvious trap. This time Davos could see where it was going.

    “Yes m’lord the fence who converts stolen goods, the men who break in girls for pimps, even the patrolmen who take a bribe not follow up on leads. All of them have a part in making more victims. O course the people who buy the stolen silverware, or visit the brothels or appoint their friends to the watch just to collect a wage without showin up are close to the root o the problem.” Stannis clapped then added his own take on Davos' point.

    “Well reasoned Davos. And you threw the charge back at my social class without directly insulting me. There is no rapist pimp without a so called joy seeker. And we both know that means some lord’s son. The fancy goods are bought by people with money and that means the upper class. They are also the ones who put crooked watch members in place, after all small folk don’t collect the graft in Kings Landing. Hell, many peasants don't actually use money." Aside from the lord's use of some strange words Davos could understand his train of though easily. 'Peasant' clearly meant poor person though Davos had no clue as to it social meaning. Leave it to the high born to make twenty words for the same thing.

    "Of course you are forgetting that the kings tax is what pays for the ships that keep slavers off our shores. It pays for the upkeep of the roads so that merchants feel safe enough to bring food to the poor in out of the way villages. If every rolling merchant had to pay for guards the price of food would rise and so would suffering.” Davos looked at the lord with a slightly cocked head. Up until that moment his arguments were rock solid, but this one was less sure footed.

    “Begging my lord’s pardon but perhaps he should spend more time outside his castle and among the people in the villages. There is little of the King’s protection outside the walls of a holdfast. Most people have what protection them and their neighbors can make for themselves.” Davos found himself getting heated. Stannis was a fair man with a sound mind, but for such practical military man he was starting to sound like he lost touch with reality.

    Stannis raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Peace my friend. I’m not bloody stupid. I know more often than we’d like to believe the gold cloaks cause more problems than they solve. I’m also aware of how difficult it is to protect the coasts fully. It wouldn’t surprise me to know that some Steptstones trash rightly bragged about raiding villages off Cape Wrath."

    "However, imagine what would happen if there were no patrols and those pirates could do what they wanted without any fear of reprisal? The perception of order brings order. And when people break down the faith in the law, whether by breaking it directly, corrupting it with graft or by destroying its credibility it makes life worse for everyone. And we both know it isn’t the rich who suffer when that happens, or at least not until the ‘sudden peasant revolt’ happens.” Stannis made the air quotes again and Davos realized it was meant as a mocking gesture. Davos found that he smirked and laughed outright for the first time of the night. Working for Lord Stannis wouldn’t be half bad if this was how he was going to act.

    “Ah, I’m glad you could relax. But don’t be so happy just yet. I still have to punish you for your decade or so of smuggling. However, I’m willing to let you choose the method. First, I want you to add up all the smuggling crimes you’ve committed since your watched your captain get hung for trading weapons to the wildlings. If you can't remember each year’s totals just add up your rough yearly take."

    "Then I want you to calculate how much tax you actually welched on. Don’t worry about it you can borrow one of my pages and all the parchment you need. Though be considerate as I don’t have fresh supply of it yet. Then I want you to bring to me a fair and just sentence I can deliver to you alongside your knighthood."

    "Now should you not choose to do this I will understand. In that case I will provide you with a very fat purse once my Brother takes the throne. I’ll also wait three months before posting an even larger bounty on your head. Of course that bounty will only be enforced if you are still in Westeros or you decide to live in an area that supports slavery. So going to Bravos or the Summer Islands and retiring would be an option.” Davos swallowed.

    “That seems fair m’lord. But beggin your pardon do you have to accept my suggestion?” Stannis smiled at the ex smuggler, it was predatory.

    “No, but the more practical and sensible you are the more likely I am to accept your proposal. Also be warned I’m not going to kill you or leave you incapable of serving me, as I’m not going to waste my time training you to be a burden to me.” Davos found himself releasing a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

    “You have until Eddard Stark comes to relieve this siege to make up your mind. I would hurry if I were you, your crimes might take while to tally up. Oh and ser Onion and Turnips I’d learn to say my lord instead of m’lord. It's more knightly.” Davos realized he was being dismissed when Renly showed up at the door to take him to his quarters.

    “Thank you my lord Stannis. I will try to prove myself up to the challenge.” He bowed to lord Stannis’s nod and pretended he didn’t see Stannis wink at his brother from the corner of his eye.

    Now

    Davos stood outside in the courtyard alongside the knights and pages, while the seven accused were led out before the assembly. It was slightly overcast but visibility was excellent.

    They were bound with heavy ropes, nautical knots bound both arms and legs. There were more than a few bruises on each of the soon to be condemned but they were each clean. If Davos had to guess it was done with sea water as no one would waste fresh water on dead men.

    Inwardly he winced. If Davos had to choose between washing his wounds with salt and appearing with a bad odor he knew what option he would take. The smuggler was no closer to solving Lord Stannis’ riddle but he knew one thing. He was not leaving Storms End without his knightship. Marya and his sons would not suffer to spare Davos a bit of skin.
    Since the soon to be prince promised he wouldn’t leave him useless it meant Davos would at least keep his sword arm intact.

    He began thinking of all the body parts he could afford to give up that met the prince's requirements for ‘being of use’. Since Davos didn’t have to decide until the castle was relieved it meant the king was being reasonable. That was a vast difference from the kind of blind loyalty demanded by most high borns and Davos found himself respecting the man even more.

    From his elevated chair Stannis addressed the assembled lords, soldiers and sundry laborers. Anyone currently in Storms End was someone the Baratheons implicitly trusted and had immediate use for. All the others had been turned out, so the recent betrayal was something all present were less than pleased about. Even if there was a growing desire for surrender being associated with cowardly betrayal was something universally loathed.

    Stannis’ voice cut through the idle chatter and insults hurled at the accused as they walked forward to meet their fate. No one really expected this to end in a surprising manner. They didn’t’ just try to run, they ambushed and struck their lord and worse the ring leader did so from behind. A serious example had to be made of these idiots. The betting pool among his crew favored crucifixion. Davos heard rumors among the scullery maids that they would use the catapults. Davos himself, having met the man figured hanging or the sword. Stannis wasn’t a cruel man and he couldn’t imagine him drawing their deaths out longer than necessary.

    “I will have SILENCE and DECORUM! This is court of LAW!” Stannis' battle field voice was impressive to say the least. They didn’t need the big metal gong and large smooth mace at all.

    “We all know why we are here. You Ser Doman Crayborn, You Ser Carson Mondy, You Ser Gered Lycomb, You Squire Donald Cumberly, You Man at Arms Selwidge Sharpe and You Watchman Yoren Albridge stand accused of mutiny and attempted murder of your liege lord."

    "For the sake of justice I must ask you to enter your pleas!” For a moment none of them moved but one by one they actually had the audacity to plead not guilty, or offer excuses. Maester Cresson entered their please on a scroll. All of them spoke except for Ser Doman.

    Ser Doman rode forward and when Lord Stannis raised his hand the spear carrier allowed him to approach the dais.

    “Thank you, but I am not going to beg for my life.” The look Stannis displayed and his nod let Davos know Ser Doman wasn’t surprising him.

    “You speak of mutiny, you talk about my tying to kill my rightful lord. But isn’t that what you are doing right now? Those men outside the gates are loyal to the true king of the seven kingdoms.” He paused and stared into Lord Stannis’ eyes. The gaunt lord returned the glare with interest before he replied.

    “So it is ok for the rightful king to not only rape his wife and encourage his heir to despoil the daughters of his loyal lord paramounts, but to cruelly murder said lords when they dare complain?" Stannis 'voice carried over the courtyard. His tone rightfully implying the defendant was a simpleton in addition to being a cowardly oath breaker.

    "I should also say making a mockery of trial by combat is beyond royal prerogative. Unless you are suggesting roasting the honorable lord Stark alive by wildfire while his son strangled himself to save him was in fact justice.” Not to be undone and with no recourse save audacity Ser Doman rallied.

    “Those allegations are unproven!” That was the wrong track to take with the crowd and they began to murmur various death threats. Lord Stanis rose his hand and there was silence again.

    “I think the madness of Aerys is common knowledge. And if Lyanna had voluntarily left with Rheagar I doubt her brother would have risked his own life to get her back after she would clearly have shamed the Stark name. A simple letter stating that fact could not have been hidden, even if Rhaegar was lying. Yet even that much respect for Westerosi law was beyond the scope of his prophesy addled brain. But be that as it may the crimes of the Targaryeans or Baratheons are not the topic of today."

    "Rather it is your rather feeble attempt to murder me and betray this castle to our enemies that is the focus of this trial.”

    Cries of here here and Aye could be heard. A turn of Stannis’ head was all it took to calm them. Stannis waited until Ser Doman could gather his wits and allowed him more rope to hang himself. It seemed that the rogue knight realized his death was certain but wanted to go out of this world with some honor, for his next arguments were less self serving.

    “Fine. If that is the way this will go. You are a fair man, or at least that is how you want to be seen. But tell me what is fair about subjecting all of us to slow starvation because of your stubborn pride?” He turned to face the crowd and some energy or passion took him. Ser Doman's voice was loud and strong and full of conviction.

    “We have been held up in this castle for almost a year, while our supposed better king is was hiding in every whore house in the Riverlands. What Stannis doesn’t want to tell you is even he isn’t confident that his brother is still alive. Their rebellion isn’t nearly as powerful as they are pretending," came forth from Doman's indignation. With a fiery spirit he continued.

    "We and this castle are his guarantee of surety. They will let us all starve to death so that they can make a deal that spares their noble Baratheon skins before they go bowing down to their dragon cousins once again. Thousands of us little people will die so they can keep doing the same things they always have. Making tragic songs about death and honor, while they reap the benefits we suffer the blade and fire." Ser Doman looked at each of the men guarding him and slowly climbed a bit higher while reaching his full height.

    "Tis why Ser Gared Wylde and his men slipped out three months ago quietly. They were with the Baratheons as long as anyone else and they knew what was going on. If even the master of arms felt it was better to give up why shouldn’t the rest of us. I don’t apologize for trying to save my life, for trying to save all of us. I’m just sorry I failed.” His face turned into stone and he stepped down with the others to await judgment. There were murmurs in the crowd and a few gave him sympathetic looks.

    If Stannis was in any way discomforted by this turn of events it didn't show. He merely allowed the crowd to murmur another few seconds before again raising his hands for silence.

    “Let me first say that Ser Damon is both a coward and a liar. Yes, my brother may have been visiting a whore house, but if there is one thing he loves it’s a fight. All of you here know he would never abandon a fight or warriors in the field. He is winning this war. Robert claimed victory at the Battle of the Bells and he will crush Rheagar at the Trident. If he hasn’t done so already, provided the caitiff Rheagar found the stones to fight him that is. Then our grand alliance will root out the madness in Kings Landing and put an end to the shadow of fear over the Seven Kingdoms once and for all." There was a series of shouts and the crowd was once again his. But Lord Stannis was not finished.

    "Make no mistake Mace Tyrell knows he is on the wrong side of this fight. He knows it morally and he knows it practically. He had enough of fighting my brother so he is camped out here with an army that he could have taken to pincer our brave brethren months ago. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t want to loose any more men against Robert either,” Stannis said finishing with a bold laugh. There were laughs and a few shouts of ours is the fury.

    “Second. I have shared every hardship with you and so has my family. Renly come. Show them our faith in our brother and his cause.” Stannis had his paige unhook his plate and chain. Stannis himself took of his armor. The crowd below could see how the still powerful man had lost almost 2 stone. The boy bravely stood before the crowd and took off his shirt revealing his rib and ever distending belly. The looks in the crowd if they were angry before were now almost murderous.

    “Third, we are not fighting here to seat my brother on the throne. We aren’t even fighting here to get rid of the current branch of Targaryens. We are fighting here because there needs to be accountability in those who are responsible for law and order. A man can't just kidnap another man’s betrothed, and this is nothing but a kidnapping. Even if you want to believe that Rhaegar asked Lyanna to come with him, why wait until she was almost at the alter to act? Do you really believe the Prince whose father enjoyed raping his wife for years would take no for an answer?" Hell noes and no Rapist King rejoined Stannis' question.

    "Lastly those men outside our gates have been there for the better part of a year. Most of you are career soldiers, many of you fought with my father against Maelys. Do you honestly believe they are just going to end this siege without a sack of some kind? Even if they did what do you think Aerys would order? Care to wager your life or your wife’s honor on lord fat flower to defy the mad king?” Again more hell noes accompanied the lord's questions.
    With that Davos knew Stannis had them for good.

    “Now do any of the rest of you actually believe I don’t recognize your faces? Better yet, do any of you actually dispute fighting with my loyal guards?” Each of them shook their heads.

    “Then I hereby sentence you all to death!” The defendants were lead to a wall opposite the courtyard where their ropes were tied to heavy stones. At the sound of drums men at arms brought out covered baskets and placed them at regular intervals in front of the crowd. When they were all stationed there was signal and the canvas was lifted.

    Davos of course knew that they were filled with stones. At once there was a wailing from three of the condemned.

    “I am not a cruel man...” Lord Stannis began. However, Ser Doman cut him off.

    “Like hell you aren’t! If you’re going to kill us do it decent like. Hemp Rope or Block!” he cried in vain.

    Cries of ‘shut up you bastard’ drowned him out. However, there were other murmurings in the crowd. Some of them crying for a more merciful end, though the majority went the other way. Some of those methods proscribed included drawing and quartering and crucifixion. Davos swore never to commit any crimes in Storm's End.

    The gong rang once, twice and the people were silent.

    “In most circumstances I would simply use a noose or my sword. But what you did wasn’t just a crime against me.” He turned to face the crowd “If they had succeeded they would have placed every man, woman and child in the hands of the mad king’s puppets."

    "I won’t force any man or woman to pass judgment on these crimes. I leave that to your own conscience but my sentence stands or falls on one point. Are we standing as one against what waits outside this wall or are we not?”
    Davos didn’t see it but a washerwoman murmured something close to fucking traitor and brushed past him. A second later a stone careened off the head of a still cursing Ser Doman.

    That broke the dam. Men and women of every walk of life picked up stones and began pelting the condemned for what seemed like hours, but was probably only two minutes. Davos was surprised to find he had tossed a fist size stone at one of the shorter men. With all the blood it was hard to tell who was who. He noted that most of the fighting men were the most enthusiastic. In the excitement Davos still noted that Master Cressen, Renly and Stannis had not participated.
    Then the gong rang again. Everyone stopped.

    “As mine is the voice that ordered the sentence, mine is the sword that will grant mercy!”

    With that the lanky lord walked to each prisoner and pierced their heart with his long sword.

    He nodded at Davos once before walking back to his keep, Renly and Cressen trailing behind him. As they walked by the people of Storms End began to chant the obvious rejoinder.

    OURS IS THE FURY! Ours is the FURY! Ours is the FURY! It was said later than Mace Tyrell wet himself in surprise.
    Needless to say there were no more attempts let alone talk of surrender or mutiny and little Renly received no more 'hungry' looks.

    Three months later Lord Eddard Stark rode to their relief with the news the war all was but over.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
  11. Greatazuredragon

    Greatazuredragon Versed in the lewd.

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    Nice chapter, good work.
     
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  12. NakedFury

    NakedFury Know what you're doing yet?

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    Wasnt this posted before? I think I read this chapter already, and I was so excited for something new.
     
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  13. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Probably read it on A03 or Alt History or SB.

    This is new here. Also I edit and improve the original story based on feedback.

    If people like it enough here I might even make a edited story with lewds for QQ exclusive, but no promises.
     
  14. Voidlord

    Voidlord Making the rounds.

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    Jeez that was quite a brutal execution. Can’t really say stoning is really justified...
     
  15. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Well he needed to win the crowd and introduce a new concept of 'justice'. When crimes against the community are committed the community is responsible for administering justice. If you notice Stannis is subtly changing the way crime is seen and empowering people while securing his own dominion.

    It is definitely an improvement over slow strangulation hanging in its more democratic aspect and the fact its quicker. Death is met because the people agree death is the appropriate resolution.

    Who killed the criminals? It wasn't the tyrant overlord it was all of us supporting our 'chosen' leader. Who will Doman's family hate? Not the tyrant Stannis for the crime was against Storms End and Storms End met judgement upon the catiff.

    There are a bunch of subtle things going on if you pay close attention.

    Also they endangered his lil bro and THAT SHIT WILL NOT DO!
     
  16. Dacffggggg

    Dacffggggg Julian the Great

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    Hey don’t want to be that guy but are you same from alternate history and space battles or did you just copy him
     
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  17. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Yeah I'm the same guy, jus didn't want to have the same name on each site.
     
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  18. Dacffggggg

    Dacffggggg Julian the Great

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    Sorry about that but we’ll come
     
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  19. Threadmarks: Eddard I
    Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong,
    but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.
    Theodore Roosevelt​

    Eddard Stark
    StormsEnd
    Fifth month of 283 AC



    The grey eyed, brown haired lord rode past the outer gate leading into the ancient seat of his estranged best friend. At his tail were his chosen guard, men he had built bonds of trust, friendship and loyalty with over the bloody tragedy men called Robert’s Rebellion. Slightly behind him and between them rode Mace Tyrell, Lord Paramount of the Reach and his most effective battle commander Randyl Tarly, Lord of Horn Hill. Lord, no Prince Stannis had sent a messenger requesting Ned bring the two men with him when he formally informed the Baratheon household of King Robert’s demands.

    It was a long drawn out affair, but to be fair pageantry was as much part of noble life as breathing and the defenders needed to recoup their morale and their wounded pride. Eddard snickered as the parade entered a trot and men in ‘best as they could do’ shined armor lined the road in attention. Yes, they had practically won the damn series of disorganized battles men called a war, but the cost weighed heavily on Ned's soul. Of the four children his now dead parents had sired, one had been horrifically murdered along side his sire. Another was imperiled in ways he didn’t care to think about and the last was even more guilt laden than Aerys would have been, should the beast have grown a conscience in the last minutes of his misbegotten life.

    It was likely Benjen would beg leave to take the black, leaving Ned alone with what should have been Brandon's strange southron wife and responsibilities he wasn’t trained for. A path the wolf lord never expected and a which a part of him never wanted. Fleeting thoughts of a veiled woman with haunting purple eyes drifted in the corners of his mind. Then the 'quiet wolf' remembered that his much mourned impetuous brother had put paid to that fantasy long before his death mandated Ned take his place. It would seem that the man slyly mocked as the ‘quiet wolf’ would forever be cursed with his bolder brothers leavings, even in his private fantasies.

    Lord Stark's increasingly depressing and uncharacteristically uncharitable thoughts towards his late brother were interrupted by a strange chant. He and his men had been heralded by shouts of ‘Ours is the fury’, ‘Winter is Coming’, ‘Up Baratheon’, ‘Up Robert or Stannis or even Renly’. However, the sounds coming from the centre of the courtyard were new. The voice was strong and powerful and didn't quite fit into any form of music Ned Stark had ever heard.

    They said he was basic, just a bit dim,
    but the mad king, Rob displaced him
    Robert was dreaming of a better kingdom
    Now we can leave our old fears behind
    Not a yes sir, not a follower
    Fit the box, fit the mould, no sir
    Have a seat in the foyer, take a number
    Rob is lightning and the thunder
    Then the men with spears thumped them vigorously thrice upon the stones, and everyone else stomped on the ground. Ned could swear the earth shook.
    Then a chorus began. It was made of mixed men and women. A few children's voices could be made out as well.
    Thunder, thunder
    Thunder, thun', thunder
    Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
    Thunder, thun', thunder
    Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
    Thunder, feel the thunder
    Lightning then the thunder
    Thunder, feel the thunder
    Lightning then the thunder
    Thunder, thunder
    Thunder
    Rheagar was laughing, kissing assess
    Aerys was scheming for the masses
    Who do you think ye be?
    Your only rights are the ones I give thee
    They said he was basic, said he was easy
    That we’d wrapped up in under four weeks
    Now Rob is smiling from the high stage
    They’re laying in state in the Red Keep

    The chorus took up again, even louder before. Eddard could not believe that people who were under siege for so long could have so much energy. He suspected that the primary chanters had been fed especially well before this ‘performance’, but it was still impressive. Moreover, the singer they had gotten to perform the new tune was good. His voice wasn’t anything to write home about, but the way it jumped and warbled was very intriguing. The beat was eerie in its both complex and simple rhythm.

    When the Lord of Winter reached past the people in front of him he and his companions were in for more of a shock. The person who was singing was none other than Stannis Baratheon himself! The stunned north man turned to his right and left to see that Mace and Randyl had almost fallen from their horses. Ned knew that Stannis had taken a head wound in some mutiny, but this was outside his wildest expectations.

    Everyone in his company expressed some form of shock except for one. The little crannogman behind him only narrowed his eyes and a gave a half smile as the youngest prince of the kingdom beckoned them to join him on the stage. Little Renly had a cup of what looked like watered down Arbor Gold, but the pitcher he poured for each of them was of the true strength.
    Once the standard bragging and public thanks were done with. Ned and the lords were ushered into Prince Stannis’ solar.

    Later on
    Inside Lord Baratheon's Room
    It contains a table length map of the seven kingdoms.

    Prince Stannis Baratheon was dressed plainly, but not in his usual boiled leathers or grey plate. Instead he was wearing a neat doublet with the Baratheon colors and stag. Ned seriously doubted he would have been able to sing and gods be good dance in anything else. When he told Robert about this situation, the elder stag would never believe it. On the middle brother's head was a simple circlet of Iron wrought to look like the tines of a stag. A near identical but smaller circlet was on the head of the too small child seated beneath him.

    “Lord Paramount Eddard,” the gaunt prince said with a slight nod. Ned wasn’t surprised to be addressed by his title. Stannis was always one to be strict regarding protocol. However, Stark was somewhat taken back as there was a softness to it, as though Stannis were offering condolences for the way Ned gained his unwanted promotion.

    “Let me first say you have my condolences for the loss of you kin. Brandon might have been intemperate in his justifiable actions, but no one deserved to die like that. Not even that bastard of a mad king. I also know what it is like to lose my parents and there is very little I wouldn’t do to ensure the safety of Renly," said the not so stern man while he patted the child on the head lightly. Eddard’s jaw dropped as Renly hugged him on the leg.

    Mace Tyrell actually let out air audibly in his surprise at Stannis’s show of affection. That caused Stannis face to harden and a fury quickly set into his eyes. Before Ned could open his mouth to attempt to stop something unfortunate from happening the rage left. It was as though some force had squashed it down with great intensity. Taking advantage of he lull Ned spoke in a businesslike manner.

    “My Prince, I humbly accept your kind words of comfort. Though in the essence of brevity I would like to give you our King’s instructions so I may be about my equally important duties. Despite what some may believe the war isn’t over yet.” Ned believed those words would be enough get him on his way. Lord mace would be on his own. Though its was unlikely Stannis would do anything too drastic Lord Stark could spare no concern for the indolent lord while his sister was imperiled.

    “Yes, those still stubborn or loyal to the dragons have holed up at dragon stone with a fleet in being. They will likely no longer be a problem after a few months time but they may cause more flare ups of violence among the desperate or fanatical.” Stannis as usually was succinct in stating military matters and while Ned wanted to leave he was curious as to the terminology used by a recognized commander of men. However, he was beaten to the punch by his 'guest'.

    “Fleet in being.. myPrince?” The voice of Lord Randyl Tarely echoed through the room, asking the question many them didn’t have the courage to field. For some reason Stannis didn’t object to the question or perhaps it was the respectful tone and inclusion of his title that made the difference. Stannis seemed a bit off center for the first time, as though he had made a strategic blunder yet he answered confidently.

    “A fleet in being lord Randyl, is a force that is a threat by simply existing despite being insufficient to present a serious strategic or tactical danger by itself. Currently Rhaela’s forces don’t have the man power or supplies to actually commit to any action. They are hoping that some other loyalist faction with enough men will be inspired by their presence to join with them." Having started his lesson Prince Stannis opted to finish it.

    "For instance if Dorne were to feel slighted enough by the unfortunate deaths of the Princess Elia and her babes to welcome them they would then have an actual army to transport behind our lines. It would then give loyalists and other opportunists hope that the STAB alliance could be flanked and broken. As it is they will starve fairly shortly as the Iron Bank will not accept such a gamble and they lack the funds to hire enough sell words to matter. Even if they had to the coin to afford to feed everyone there they don’t have the infrastructure to repair and maintain their ships horses and equipment. It’s been a long time since Aegon’s conquest and they have more ships than have been serviced there in hundreds of years." There were nods of agreement across the table as Stannis moved pieces across the map to simulate various possible combinations of alliances.

    Each of the various attempts ended in defeat either in the field after being surrounded by rebel forces or from lack of supplies. The prince explained the horrible position the loyalists were in and even when he granted them inflated numbers their cause fissiled out in under a year. Ned realized this short exercise was for the benefit of Mace and Randyl more than his own comfort. After all logic had little meaning to the devotion of men of the Kingsguard and a desperate group of men would only be more dangerous.

    The lord of Wintefell waited for the prince to wind down his lecture with a mix of awe and trepidation. For the remaining three golden warriors were not fools and could count as well as the next man. How would they take this situation?

    "I should also point out that Dragon Stone is not an island with a developed ship bay, so their navy is exposed to the elements. Any storm that hits would scatter and likely wreck their fleet. They are presenting a challenge by threatening to cut off Kings landing by Sea. One they hope to turn into a limited battle where Robert’s forces will rush into piece meal and be crushed."

    "Doing so wouldn’t actually change a damn thing, but it would let them distract their sailors from their eventual fate. It might also net them some extra supplies and maybe a few defectors. Robert wants me to use the treasury to build a fleet and crush them before they give anyone ideas. Though honestly leaving them to rot would be the most cost effective solution." That comment brought a wry grin from Randyl and Howland but a look of shock from Lord Mace.

    "Of course if their commander had a lick of sense they would sail to Bravos with whatever they could spare, covert it to gold and set up shop as traders to gain enough wealth and Esssosi connections to try again in the next generation. Stopping that would be very sensible, though I seriously doubt they have that much sense. After all sound logic isn’t exactly something the Targaryens of this generation treasured in their followers.” There were guffaws from his men, those of lord Stannis and even Randyl smiled. Of course said smile was a very ugly thing.

    This time Eddard took charge of the conversation and delivered his letter. He wasn’t surprised in the slightest that Stannis knew what the gist of his orders were or Robert’s reasoning behind the orders. The wolf lord actually found he agreed with both of their assessments. A new navy was needed even if wasn’t used because it would demonstrate Baratheon power. And the longer they waited, the hungrier and more desperate those at Dragon Stone would become. The specter of their deaths might spark a mass defection, ending the war without another costly siege.

    Stannis had used a few more strange words and phrases, but Ned believed he could figure them out in context or ask someone later. It was better to avoid risking Baratheon rage. Stannis was acting calmly and speaking logically in the presence of the man who starved him and his brother for months. So deciding to leave well enough alone; Ned spoke with a courteous yet powerful voice.

    “Be that as it may you are hereby instructed to take command of that navy and put an end to this war. The princess and her children are to be taken into custody by yourself and delivered to the King.” Stannis took the letter broke the seal and after glancing over it smirked in an ugly manner before placing it down.

    “I believe the words used were put an end to this war," the prince said. His ice blue Baratheon eyes bored into Ned’s stone grey orbs, a silent understanding that Stannis perfectly understood Roberts’ preferred state of being for said remaining Targaryens. Before Ned could say more or wonder exactly how much Stannis knew about the deaths of Elia and her children, how the hell Stannis knew it would be him relieving the siege or if the rumors be true the methods of death the mad king and son met the prince continued.

    “I accept these orders and I have already set instructions to assemble the required labor, warriors and supplies. As for confirmation of these orders I’ll send ravens to kings landing but I also feel I must needs ensure the delivery of these newly leal lords and their forces to the secure the capital."

    "As such I will be heading to Kings Landing myself. Fear not I will be back long before the fleet is completed. I also have some instructions for those here as well.” Stanis then turned to the lordly prisoners in all but name before him.

    “As Prince my first order is that Lord Paramount Mace Tyrell remain my guest here until this war has concluded. Lord Randly Tarely will command the reach component of his majesties forces from this moment forward.” He stared the large man, whose jaw had fallen, in his green eyes while daring him to speak. Mace wisely kept his mouth shut.

    “Do not fret. I won’t starve you, however you will go on a reasonable diet and be allowed to train regularly in the yard. My new master of arms will be at your disposal daily, and I hope you will make use of him."

    "I will also have documents I require you to sign. Again don’t fret I wont be taking any territories from you, as I have no authority from the crown to do so. However, you will relinquish a certain amount of food and manpower to my garrison immediately. I will contact you if I have further need of your services.” Recognizing the dismissal for what it was the Lord Paramount bowed and left the solar.

    “Now that most of the incompetence in this part of the kingdom is off to bed without supper we can get the real work done.” That garnered more laughs, even from Ned himself. The gaunt lord then turned to Lord Randyl.

    “You will assess the troops, sell swords and levies you currently have. The fodder will be sent home. But before they are dismissed they will spend at least 5 months repairing and improving territories at my discretion. I trust I don’t have to explain their wages will be at Lord flower’s expense.”

    Lord Randly smiled. “Yes, I might be a former Targaryen loyalist, but I hope to convince you I have at least some sense.”

    “You do not have a high bar to reach my lord. The better end of your horse will accompany a mixed force of Stark and my own banner men to help secure the capital. The foot will proceed to the capital at their own pace under escort. If there is no need for them they will join the force described in your orders and secure the realm."

    "All weapons and food not required to meet these goals will be distributed according the orders I have drawn up. Do you have any other questions or concerns?” Randyl looked at him and shook his head.

    “I would have to check those orders to see if they are realistic, but knowing your reputation I doubt I will find much I can improve on,” said the lord of Horn Hill, which was basically high praise. Tarly bowed and left the room, as unlike his liege he could read the situation clearly.

    Lord Stark made to bow but the prince cut him off. “You do not have my leave to find your sister yet Lord Paramount Stark. May we speak privately?”

    Stark looked at his men, the six who he trusted more than almost any save his brother in Winterfell. "Anything you may say in front of me you can say before them.” Stannis smiled as though he already knew the answer. It was not the first time Ned had that feeling of being tested for something he couldn’t understand in his presence and he knew it would not be the last.

    “I believe Prince Renly was promised a dessert in the kitchens if he behaved himself as a prince of the realm should. Would you kindly make sure he gets his due Maester?” The old man smiled knowingly and led the excited boy away from what he thought of as more boring talk of supplies. The only Baratheon retainer that stayed was a lowborn knight wearing fine gloves and a bag of some sort around his neck. Though if Stannis trusted him, he must have had his reasons.

    “Nicely done my Prince. The boy will suspect nothing and be grateful for the excuse to be away from being bored senseless," said the heir of The Neck, slightly out of turn. The voice of the Howland Reed was thoughtful, even as it sounded amused. Ned might have rebuked his friend for impertinence, but Reed never did things without reason. When Stannis smiled and nodded, Eddard realized that his man was simply building report with the man and gauging his new personality. And It was quite the change as the prince proved with his next words.

    “My lords is it possible for us to take off our titles and speak as family men and friends?” Not for the last time was Eddard Stark surprised by what he found coming from the mouth of Robert's middle brother. His head nodded of its own accord.

    “Let me be frank. You play a dangerous game and you are doing so rather half assed! While even in my own home I can’t speak the words I wish; I must warn you that not every Baratheon is as willfully blind as my brother. That and not everyone is as idiotic as my late unlamented scaled cousin. How exactly did you plan to go about your search? And please tell me you 7 weren’t going to stroll around in easily identifiable garments in hostile territory when half of you lack good plate. And let us not forget there are still 3 kings guard, arguably the best of the fanatically loyal lot unaccounted for. And there is no guarantee they don't have additional loyalist or sell sword forces with them.” Stannis stopped to let the words sink in and or accept any challenge.

    Ned took the words like a slap. He was about to tell the king’s brother to mind his own 7 damned business and that his sister was important to him. Only then the words sunk in. Eddard was about to ride off somewhere in Dorne with a letter demanding compliance from Doran and the Prince intimated he knew already. More ever he was relying on speed and small numbers to keep secrecy and the letter to protect him against attacks, but the kingsguard might not care. They might not even be alone. A part of him screamed that he was being just as impetuous as Brandon.
    Eddard turned to find his compatriots equally shifting between shock, rage and shame. Lord Howland Reed’s face was pensive, though he only nodded. None of them said anything as they came to similar conclusions, that their plan was rather desperate. Well that and attacking Stannis Baratheon verbally in his own home was madness similar to that of Aerys, his prior permission non withstanding.

    “Good you are thinking about the problem and separating your own ego from the situation. It is the first step to making a successful strategy. Let us consider this problem scientifically.” Stannis once again pointed at the table. This time in the region of the Riverlands.

    “This is where your sister was taken. Does anyone here have an accurate memory of the dates of the war and estimated locations of the forces involved. It always pays to have more than one source.” The prince then waved and the knight, whose name Ned couldn't remember walked over and unrolled a parchment before them all.

    “This is Ser Davos Seaworth, the smuggler who kept us from eating corpses.” The knight bowed slightly and placed his right fist in between his left palm curling the fingers over his knuckles. At once Eddard remembered the weird ceremony. In truth he simply preferred to ignore many things recently due to his concern for Lyanna. No to mention keeping track of all of the new princes 'eccentricities' would be impossible. Ned would have to ask Howland for more details later as the smalTl man never seemed to forget anything important.

    “Good day my lords. I am here t, to offer my wisdom concerning sea travel times and lo..logistics. I am happy to have the chance to redeem my past crimes against the realm with leal service.” He smiled a roguish smile at his lord. Obviously he was proud of saying those sentences without breaking into common drawl. Stannis however, rolled his eyes. It wasn’t done out of malice though and their camaraderie was self evident.

    “Enough Davos. If I wanted a trained parrot or monkey I would have sent to the Summer Isles,” spoke the lord of the castle in a faux gruff voice. Stannis then pointed a finger at the location of the ‘kidnapping’ and got the ball rolling.

    “Date of taking!” Stannis said in a more serious voice. Lord Reed answered first, “Toward the end 982 AC”. Then he pointed to the first place and time Rhaegar was confirmed to be seen. From there they worked out how much time it would take for a small group to make it from one place to another without making a scene on foot or ship.

    Ser Davos had a keen mind for evading detection, as a famous and free smuggler would have to. They worked out with simple logic that Rheagar had to be operating somewhere within the area called the Princes Pass. It really wasn’t shocking that a Stormlander would have detailed information of Dorne as the two kingdoms had been fighting each other before Aegon united the 7 kingdoms.
    What was surprising was that Stannis had a crumbling map and a rough copy of it depicting a list of hold fasts and old castles along said pass. Within the hour they had narrowed down the location of where his sister was likely held to three locations and Ser Davos and Stannis gave their impression it was a place call Lord Dener's Needle.

    “So how would you suggest we do this Stannis?” The prince turned to look at Jory Cassel’s father and raised an eyebrow.

    “What? The man asked us not to be formal Ned.” The north men for all their titles tended to be somewhat guileless. Most when hearing relaxed would still affix a lord this and that to address a bloody prince. Stannis instead of taking offence laughed.

    “I’m just surprised you are asking for advice instead of saddling the nearest horses and running off to adventure.” At this Ned did take some umbrage.

    “This is my sister’s life not some southron tale of knights and maidens. I believe you were the one telling us to consider this seriously” Eddard said with some heat. Stannis instead of responding as his brother would by yelling or making another inappropriate joke bobbed his head a few times in agreement. Ned had the distinct feeling Stannis had goaded him into acting a certain way yet again.

    “My apologies for the ill timed jest Stark. It seems my words struck more deeply than I intended. I would suggest a force of 20 to thirty men on horse with lances and crossbows. I also can have my smiths equip you will full plate harness and I can grant each of your riders 2 changes of horse. Don't worry about the expense, after all our newest loyalist is paying for it. Mis..Ser Davos can deliver you to Wyll and you can set out from there.” Then his voice dropped to almost a whisper and he leaned in. Everyone gathered closer to him.

    “I also suggest that you forget chivalry and any code of honor in this secret mission. There are substances that can disable a man if he inhales them or they make contact with his skin by causing pain, itching or drowsiness. I can have my Maester mix some of these for you and they can be deployed in a variety of ways including on weapons or tossed in containers. Said containers can be made to look like ordinary spirit bottles." There were a few gasps at that suggestion, but Stannis raised is voice.

    "Before you decry the lack of honor consider that these are fanatics that stood by as the Mad King raped and burned and defiled every tradition of the seven kingdoms." Stannis's voice grew colder, allowing his anger's full effect to be noticed.

    "These 'knights' of the white cloak are the ones who took honor and flipped the concept on its head. It would be better for everyone to take them alive, but if comes to a choice between your sister’s life and how others look at you what will you chose? I chose my brother, both of them."

    "I didn’t rush out of this castle to fight Mace Tyrell man to man in single combat, despite how men mocked me. I stayed right here and starved so his army wouldn’t leave or suddenly grow a brain and trap Robert at the Trident. Though honestly I suspect Randyl wasn’t in any rush to save Rheagar to begin with." Then the prince's voice took on a less pedantic, but no less authoritative tone.

    "In an ideal situation you could just reason with them or lure them out in a fight then douse them with itching powder and club them down with a pole arm, club or the flat of your swords. But we don’t even know if they will be alone or reasonable. After all whatever final orders they have would be the summation of their life's duty. These are men who have foresworn everything to follow their calling as Kings guard. That included common decency, moral guidelines and basic human compassion or have you not noticed that they have followed along with everything else the dragons have done so far. They might see themselves as having nothing left to loose and final orders to prevent the return of their captive above all else.”

    The northerners and even Davos gasped but not for the same reason Ned and Howland did. Though Eddard believed such spiteful orders were indeed capable of existing even he didn't believe Stannis would voice such concerns. But to the others non honorable combat between social near equals was anathema. In their eyes to capture or kill the embodiment of honorable knights in that way would be unthinkable to most people. That Stannis could propose this was almost unthinkable. Then again that his brother by choice would rejoice at the deaths of babes was something Ned thought unthinkable as well. Until it happened that is.

    That was not the only surprising thing that Stannis said or did. He pulled Ned along and away from the others while they debated just which of his suggestions had merit. For a man starved so long his vigor was impressive. Yes Eddard could have stopped him, after all being in a siege didn’t make one physically more powerful, but what Stannis had to say in private after that suggestion both frightened and intrigued him.

    “You must also consider certain other possibilities. I can provide you with Maester Cressen or you can find a non affiliated doctor from Essos.” Ned didn’t catch his drift then he spoke more plainly.
    “Or a midwife skilled with the blade and sanitary conditions. I have a treatise on sterilization and applying it to tools, barber’s tools and strong spirits that I insist you take with you and have whoever you select use." When Ned shock kept his tongue silent the middle Baratheon continued.

    "There has been enough tragedy already and the death of yet more children will not be something the gods old or new will blame house Baratheon for while I live.”

    Ned’s eyes bulged as his secret fears were laid bare before the man related to his former best friend and king. His heart raced until the words sank into his ears. Stannis was offering to help him.
    “I have sent a bird towards Winterfell for a ship out of White Harbor to come here to meet your needs. If there are any northern captains you trust in the capitol or elsewhere they can travel to meet you in Wyll or wherever else you desire." Then the strange lord of the stormlands gave him a wry smile.

    "I hear that Bravos is a lovely place to visit to recuperate from the horrors of war.”

    When Eddard continued to not speak. The prince smiled warmly before leaning into his ear.

    “Remember this. Honor doesn’t come from your name, or your sword or even a title you earn, honor comes from the man or woman. It can’t bet taken from you it must be given away.” With that he walked to rejoin the discussion which had grown a bit less heated. The cronnogman was unsurprisingly in favor of dousing the kings guard while his strongest opponent was Martyn Cassel.
    The discussion ended a few hours later and the various lords went to bed. Ned didn’t sleep more than a few hours. He suspected that none of his compatriots did either. Millions of thoughts and plans ran though his head and he knew that the choice was his alone to make. His to make and live with and somewhere in the early twilight Ned made his decision.

    Almost two months of training and preparation later Stark's company boarded a ship crewed by northmen sworn to the Manderlys of White Harbor. Eddard was fortunate that they had been nearby and had shown up to pledge leal service in the hopes of gaining a reward. The forty armed and armored mounted men Stark brought with him would go a great way to ensuring they kept that vow.
    Before Ned joined them he went to talk to Stannis one more time.

    “I see you are feeling better. I hope you got at least some sleep after last nights feast. So many people got drunk that I doubt many remember who they are or where they were.”
    Ned smiled at the fox. He deliberately made it so many in Storms End wouldn’t be functional during their little debate, which despite the need for secrecy had gotten heated more than once.
    “Once I made the best decision I could I found my restlessness faded.”

    “That tends to happen to me as well Lord Stark. I also don’t want to know what you are planning either. He is my brother after all.”

    “And what you don’t know you can’t be asked to tell.” Ned said it without anger or accusation. What he was doing might end up being treason, but to do otherwise would be as monstrous as what Tywin or Aerys had done. Was this how Ser Jaime and the others felt every day in the Red Keep?

    What kind of man could keep sane with that on his conscious, weighing on his soul.

    Just as abruptly Stannis turned to him and reached out his arm. “Good fortune to you Stark may the worst of our dreams be nothing but hot air.”

    He returned the greeting. “Good fortune to you Baratheon, May the Storm do your work for you before you get there.”

    Ned clasped his arm firmly but he wasn’t done with the conversation.

    “If you ever have need of house Stark at any time simply send a raven. As long as I live none of your children will be without safe refuge.” With that he left the prematurely balding man behind as he rode off to his ship.

    Eddard Stark feared he had lost a brother in the capitol, but he knew he had found another in Storms End. If only sisters were less complicated.
     
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  20. Dacffggggg

    Dacffggggg Julian the Great

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    One very important question will there by sex
     
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  21. Greatazuredragon

    Greatazuredragon Versed in the lewd.

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    This part confused me:
    Did they stay two months at Stormend's? :confused:
     
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  22. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    No its more like a month and change, but I'm being a bit exaggerating. It takes time to fit armor properly, gather supplies and train.

    Half assed rush to go after Lyanna likely results in getting everyone killed. Also keep in mind Stannis might be hustling...
     
  23. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    How long were they searching for Lyanna in canon? The longer they delay, the more likely it is that she's dead when they get there.
     
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  24. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Which assumes that Stannis wants "them" to be the ones that find Lyanna and isn't just teaching them lessons they will need for "other" activities. Stannis isn't slow my friends. Don't want to spoil so won't say more.
     
  25. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

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    I think QQ ate the threadmark on that last section.
     
  26. Greatazuredragon

    Greatazuredragon Versed in the lewd.

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    Does that mean that you are changing the time of Jon's birth? Because in canon they did charge in without a plan right away and arrived on the day of his birth, which means that they will arrive a month after his birth now, with Lyana already dead in childbirth. Which could easily cause the three remaining Kingsguard to run away to Essos with the newborn prince leaving nothing but an empty tower for them to find.
     
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  27. Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Also bear in mind we have no idea how long it took them to find where Lyanna was. So they could have been stumbling around for months until something clicked. We are never told exactly how Ned found that tower after all.

    I have a time line that will get put up later.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Stannis II
    Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Stannis
    Storms End
    Eighth Month of 283 After Conquest


    “Ya!” I rolled my slightly larger than average buckler to the right, shielding my forward thrust. Ser Davos swung his imitation pattern 1917 US Naval cutlass in the diagonal defense that I showed him and picked off my near identical blade with a flick of his wrist. I then saw the back side rim of his own mini shield hurtling toward my skull. I couldn't help but think it unfair how everyone seemed to learn things so damn fast in the books. Part of me wanted to clap at his rapid improvement. Of course the more jealous part remembered how many weeks of grueling instruction and mat time in the Brownesville HEMA club it took me to master that counter.

    With a side step I brought my shoulder up and checked the blow just below his elbow with my forearm. That left him exposed to my own shield, which caught him just under his sternum.

    “Uff!” went the former smuggler turned knight, as he fell back with a grunt. Winded, he retreated a few steps and bowed, signaling the end of our match and from the looks of the sweat pouring down his face the sparring session altogether. I returned the bow and our pages took our weapons and returned them to their places on the nearby rack.

    We had been sparring even before I formerly inducted him into my service almost two months ago. I learned a lot about him in the time that passed. Davos currently had three near adult children, who I made squires in training. For both of our sakes I had them protecting Renly and that would keep them out of danger. I really didn’t want anything bad happening to his children this early in our relationship, and hopefully not ever.

    My initial estimations of Davos’ good character were confirmed by observing his sons. All three of them were decent human beings, even by my ‘modern’ set of standards. They got along with each other as well as I did with my own brothers; Daryl and Hasheem. When they fought or argued the violence between them was never serious and hard feelings were non existent soon after they cooled down. They had the usual vices men of his era did namely gambling, drinking and visits to ‘certain ladies’, however they were far less exaggerated than my body’s current sibling. ‘Which means they are less wet than the sea’ replied the cynical part of my mind. It flared up whenever I compared anyone to Robert Baratheon.

    Aside from managing a healthy family despite not seeing them for long stretches at a time, Davos ran a fairly efficient crew. His finances were also surprisingly well organized for someone who was totally illiterate and without access to a maester. Not that I could talk as I had become fairly dependant on Cressen to handle my writing. For some reason my muscle memory wasn’t quite good enough to keep me from breaking quills every half page or so. The good news was my drawings of a simple metal quill were looking like they would bear fruit as soon as the black smith Donal Noye and his assistants had the time to focus on it. I also had ideas on a super sized ball point pen, but even that would be a ways off. The available ink wasn’t all that great either, but I couldn’t do anything about that until I could get some kind of basic chemistry lab going. I realized there were clear limits to ‘state of the art’ here, even for the knowledge base of a Lord Paramount’s family.
    As I walked down the hall towards my ‘personal rest room’ one of 4 installed in Stormsend, I ran into Mathos Seaworth. At this time of the day he was likely returning from a practice bout with his younger brother.

    “Hey lad when are you going to hit the showers? No offense but I smelled you coming down the hall.” I really wanted to get them in the habit of cleanliness from now.

    “My prince jests. Surely he can detect the royal musk coming from his own person no?” he replied. I laughed a few minutes before slapping the lad on the back. We passed each other and I opened the door, disrobed and placed my sweat soiled clothes on hooks.

    Then I walked to a partition pulled a lever that rang a bell and turned a metal bar. Cool salt water began to fall from the round pepper shaped metal device one foot above my head. If I had wanted to wait I could have had it heated but I didn’t care. The stench of my workout washed itself down the drain beneath my feet as I thought about what exactly I had managed to accomplish since I arrived.

    It was my greatest and only non military invention to date. Most of my skilled laborers were busy working on my more important and immediate projects. Well, when they weren’t doing other more vital work for the war effort that is. The first thing I had them work on was a basic water pump and nozzle system. With it and some wooden pipes sealed with tar and metal cuffs I took my first actual shower 5 weeks after I arrived here. Yeah it was mostly heated sea water, but I and whoever I wanted to share with could now get clean in less than 12 minutes! That was much better than waiting four goddamn hours for some servants to fill a tub. Until I got here I never in my life realized how much I took being clean for granted.

    I prayed to just about every god I ever heard off that these people had a basic understanding of water pressure, but aside from aqueducts and fountains found in the more sedidy houses those were a no go. So instead of a toilet I had to settle for a very simple water closet. It was basically a seat that emptied into a pool that filled with water manually released and drained with a set of levers. It drained into the primitive sewer system we already had. Maester Cressen was greatly impressed by both ideas and said he would ask around about how to improve the concept of pneumatics. What was funny is they understood the word, but never developed the principles. Or if they did, the ‘citadel conspiracy’ to maintain the ‘dung ages’ was real.

    To be honest I wasn’t really surprised at my own sudden inventiveness. It turned out military life taught me enough simple engineering to make that kind of stuff. Civilians don’t realize just how inventive the standard sailor gets when stranded away from civilization. Of course we usually had raw materials like pipes and plastic tubes, but the point still stood. If I actually knew how to make a silvered mirror I’d be able to put together a solar oven with enough time. To be honest I was expecting a bit of push back over my ‘discovery’ of a new method of cleanliness and subsequent demands that everyone in my presence shower daily.

    However, since what I was doing wasn’t really inventing but applying things they already knew about in better ways they didn’t break out with the ‘burn the witch’ bit. That and I was Stannis I’ll stone your ass to death for fucking with me Baratheon. Yet, to be on the safe side I decided to leave any further creativity till after the war was over and rely on less obvious skills. Such abilities were my somewhat limited knowledge of age of sail naval tactics, history and general meteorology. Spending nine years in logistics in both the coast guard and navy gave me a very practical understanding of navigating various kinds of seas, marshes and lakes. Not to mention between OG Stannis and Davos' first hand knowledge of the terrain I felt confident I could predict how the ebb and flow the seasons impacted naval combat as well as anyone else.

    I exited the shower to find a dry towel and my pre selected change of clothes neatly pressed and on a forged lead hanger. Ok I sort of invented that too, but they already used heated irons to remove wrinkles from clothes. Why shouldn’t I make their efforts more efficient? ‘Because they will think you are a demon inhabiting their lord’s body perhaps?’ came a sardonic response. I pushed the unwanted quip to the back of my thoughts as I contemplated the relative advantages of a modern education and skill set being introduced into Westerosi culture.

    See there was one more advantage that I had coming into this that I couldn’t underestimate. Though it was at times a disadvantage it was a crucial part of survival in Westeros. Even before I was Master Chief Petty Officer (retired) Raheem Alonzo Tenneson I had a thing for swords. In fact I loved highlander so much I decided to learn how wield them myself. I didn’t take epee or fencing, no I decided to learn actual battlefield weapons. Which suited me when I selected N.R.O.T.C in college. The naval saber, cutlass and later a weapon called the Estoc were the things I practiced; both in collegiate clubs and in HEMA bouts. Though I didn’t actually wear replica armor until I took up with the Estoc, and that was after I got out of the service.

    The obvious advantage to my current position was I could in theory combine Stannis’ above average knowledge of the short, long and great sword with my more modern forms to create a style no one would expect. While Stannis was not as great a warrior as his older brother, such a phrase was ‘not worth more than a tinkers damn’. What he said. Stannis was taller than most men, stronger than many and actually quite young despite his early hair loss and premature graying. In fact Robert actually died before he was thirty eight, and looking at both Stannis and Robert I couldn’t help but wonder if their physical degradation wasn’t caused more by lifestyle and attitude than some genetic accident. All in all Stannis could well develop into a much better warrior than his brother giving the right training, weapon choice and application.

    The reason it came as disadvantage was the confusion. I personally was used to using slightly to moderately curved swords, baring the last. And I honestly didn’t seriously practice the Estoc, a type of long or great sword, until relatively recently. Meaning that in the yard I could occasionally get confused as to which form from which set of memories I should be applying. It had cost me more than a few bouts in the yard and being clumsy with weapons was not something any lord, let alone a Baratheon famed as a deadly battle commander could afford. Fortunately, I was training with men I trusted and I was improving rapidly. Plus, I could always do what I did whenever something about me seemed odd and blame it on Ser Doman! Fortunately, by my new Master of Arms Ser Harold Tarshen’s estimate Stannis would be back to his original level of skill within a few more months.

    Unfortunately, I had not intention of waiting that long. Yes, it would take the better part of a year to fully rebuild and properly train a new, and more importantly loyal fleet. However, the Targaryen fleet in being near dragons stone became a fleet in annoyance. As in annoyingly raiding and striking at our allies near the gulf facing Kings Landing. Said annoyance was enough to cause my brother to send a number of ravens and a put upon rider my way ‘politely’ asking me to get off my rump and finally contribute something to the war.

    After spending more that a few hours calming the remnant of OG Stannis in my mind I sought out a reasonable plan of action after considering the problem. They had more ships than anything we could put in the region right now, but not enough to actually close the mouth of the bay. This created an opportunity for Stannis to do something he didn’t do in history ‘Gain some rightful glory, while accomplishing something practical’. I allowed the voice to finish the thought. ‘You know well that we have skilled and loyal sailors and can get sufficient ships with our available funds without breaking our budget or slowing down our construction timetable. I believe we should introduce whatever desperate commander Rhealla has gotten herself to the age old concept of defeat in detail.’ I actually couldn’t have agreed more with my erstwhile partner.

    It was a good thing that my resident ex smuggler happened to know someone who had a few ships and crew he could lend. Well for a negotiable price that is. It wasn’t long before I found myself speaking to a certain gold and silver tooth possessing, multi wived and flamboyantly dressed Lyseni.
     
  29. Threadmarks: Cressen I
    Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

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    Peace is more important than all justice;
    and peace was not made for the sake of justice,
    but justice for the sake of peace.
    Martin Luther

    Maester Cressen
    Storms End
    Slightly after the execution of Ser Doman
    Second Month of 283 AC



    The elderly grey haired man knew he was not in the best of health, and that was before the siege cut off almost all food entering the castle he had spent more than two decades in. The chained master caught his breath and walked his 60 year old frame across his sparse but comfortable room to answer the self styled prince Baratheon.

    It had taken three minutes or so to throw on his comfortable thick robe, use its left sleeve to wipe the sleep from his eyes and don his multicolor chain of office. Cressen had learned that protocol was very important to Stannis, or at least it used to be. The relatively small boy who knocked on his door again was wearing only his small clothes.

    Maester Cressen sighed. If his brother saw him about the castle in this state of undress the results would not be pleasant. Yes, Stannis had never struck the boy in anger or punished him without reason. But there were many ways to scar someone and far to many of those methods left no obvious mark.

    Prior to his display of affection a few days ago Maester Cressen would be hard pressed to name one showing of warmth from his ‘middle’ son. Part of him hoped Stannis would remember it after the last of his injuries fully healed. The other half of Cressen feared what Stannis would feel compelled to do to himself and others to ‘redeem’ his display of ‘weakness’ and ‘undue sentimentality’.

    “How may I help you lord Renly?” The greying man's voice was patient despite the hour and having been disturbed from a rather pleasant dream of two quite nubile and wanton cousins. Yes, Maesters were men with the desires of men. The natural results of such desires was what the robe was meant to obscure. A shiver went down his spine at the thought of the consequences a potential misunderstanding involving his youngest charge. Earlier today Stannis Baratheon had seven men stoned for treason. Cressen had sat calmly and watched as men were turned into to sacks of bleeding meat by an angry mob, then the boy he had bounced on his knee ran them through like sausages on a skewer. Wearing his more familiar stone face; Stannis had even made little Renly watch. What would he do to a man he believed not only betrayed him but harmed his younger brother?

    Such thoughts were enough to drive away all thoughts of the curvaceous women from his youthful days in the upper loft within the Dream Of Roses “Inn”. He and some of his fellow acolytes, and more than a few chained Maesters, spent many such nights ‘studying higher mysteries’ in that fine Old Town institution. His blood cooled and his ‘old scholar’ returned to its more peaceful state. Yes, Stannis was certainly changed yet again. The boy the old man knew was dutiful, even over serious yes, but open to those he trusted. Adult Stannis pushed everyone away and could show no emotion save rage. Cressen had only just been able to keep him from sending three men whose faith in the Baratheon cause had been lacking to their doom via catapult. While the men did need to die, Cressen knew such cruel actions would do Stannis harm he could not see, thus he had appealed to the logic of potentially needing their meat.

    Another shudder crossed his spine and like the previous one it had little to do with the chill coming from the sea. Storms End's forty foot thick walls made such an excuse ludicrous. It was the fact the master had to use the specter of cannibalism to stay Stannis’ hand that made the old man question how much influence his Targaryen grandmother’s blood had taken root. While he didn’t believe the ‘flipping coin’ theory Cressen had hoped he raised his ‘children’ to loath such punishments. When his little Stan ha hugged his brother Cressen was shocked but secretly rejoicing in the fact some good had come from his injuries. But that execution and how ‘Prince’ Stannis made little Renly be present for it, the imitation of his hard visage written across the child who both idolized and feared him; left the master in dread.

    Little Renly thankfully gave him a familiar petulant look in place of the face he made scant hours ago.

    “You know it is Prince Renly now. My brother said it was.” Cressen sighed and patted him on the head. Renly slumped, but acted in the way he always did toward his surrogate father. At least one of his children hadn’t warped into something else. He would do all in his power to keep it so.

    “Not until the ceremony and you get your circlet. You can’t be a prince without a circlet,” the chained man told the child lord. Cressen at least agreed with that plan. Stannis had the right of it, scheduling a ceremony honoring the coronation of his brother was a great way to capitalize on the good will generated by the.. execution. It would raise morale among the defenders and possible cause confusion among the besiegers. His faith in his brother’s prowess could cause no harm even though the logic behind Stannis’ claims of rebel victories were somewhat beyond credulence. If they actually had lost such claims would be irrelevant. However, if Robert's forces won or stalemated keeping Tyrell Banners here another month or so would make a difference.

    “But you didn’t wake me up to get your circlet early did you? You aren’t a baby anymore and you know Noye can’t magic it up by your leave? Because as much as I love you, I’d have to punish you, Prince or not..” The little boy showed a bit of fear then. The old Stannis knew how to scare others with just a look. He likely was more afraid of his brother finding out than any punishment the Maester would dole out.

    Then little Renly’s face became stern. It reminded him of what he saw earlier that day. A small face shouldn’t look that way. He knew why Stannis had acted that way, the necessity of it and the danger of their surrounding, but it screamed at his soul ‘This is not the way it should be. You have failed Lord Steffon and Lady Cassana!’

    “No Maester Cressen. It’s about my brother. I think, no I know he is sick!” That shocked the grey bearded healer for two reasons. The first was that Renly addressed Stannis in such familiar terms. The second was that Renly felt he found an illness that escaped a chained Maester of the Citadel in good standing. The less than non plussed master took a deep breath and decided to give Renly the benefit of the doubt. Strange things were afoot, the new prince spent more time with Stannis than he did recently and Cressen had learned not to underestimate the ability of Baratheons to surprise him.

    “What were the symptoms? Did he stumble, complain of pain anywhere in his head, show signs of dizziness?” Those were the biggest concerns with head injuries. Men would be alright for hours or even days after taking such wounds, then suddenly drop dead.

    “No Maester. I think he is hurt here.” The small lord pointed at his heart. The man found himself speechless for a moment.

    “From the mouth of babes.” It had come out without him realizing his lips moving. Renly gave him another stern look that Cressen realized was him trying to imitate Stannis. It wasn’t quite blood curdling yet. To be honest it was more endearing, but it wasn’t a good sign of things to come.

    “I’m not a..” Cressen cut him off with another head pat.

    “I know exactly how old you are Renly Baratheon. I delivered you screaming and red faced from your mother six years and four moons ago. I believe I’ve told you many times before not to fix your face that way or one day..” Renly finished the sentence with him.

    “It may stay like that.” The small, but still larger for his age, child didn’t roll his eyes. However, Cressen knew he was thinking about it.
    This time the Maester grabbed the petulant ‘prince’ by his left ear.

    “Ow, ow,” the child said. As usual the maester took the boy by surprise, for Cressen while not quite as devoted a practitioner of ancient Valyerian mind-body meditations as Pycelle, was not ignorant of their effectiveness in keeping the body functional in old age.

    “Don’t back talk me young man. You are not a lord yet!” And by that time Cresson would likely be dead. So any conceivable retribution would be moot, however the lesson about being not being a spoiled brat might outlive him. He released the black haired child a second later.

    “I understand Maester Cressen. Please don’t tell Lord Stannis.” Then Renly made the puppy eyes he was known for and Cressen relented. The only person who was immune to them was Lord Stannis, his eldest brother and everyone else melted before them. It worked in much the same way women were smitten by Robert’s smile or men quaked before the glare of Stannis.
    “Fine. Provided you behave and remember not to walk around in your small clothes like a infant or wake adults up at all hours of the night as newborns are wont to do.” The he painfully knelt so that he was eye level with Renly.

    “As for you worries. It is good you love your brother, but masters don’t fix those kinds of hurts.” Seven knew Cressen had tried to get Stannis to open up with his pain. Sweets, trips to fairs, even trying to help the boy make new friends, Cressen had done them all.

    None of it worked, not even hunting could bring Stannis out of his own mind even before the death of his parents.. The incident with ‘Proud Wing’ did not help matters either. Cressen was sure Robert’s mocking of his failed attempt to mend an injured hawk was not done out of spite. Even Steffon had seemingly agreed with that estimation. Unfortunately, undermining the boy’s attempt at showing mercy and kindness to wounded animals only hardened him in an unhealthy manner. Robert couldn’t understand his brother any more than the Maester did. The lustful Baratheon's attempts to sneak ‘wanton’ women into Stannis’ bed did nothing to ease the stern lad's grief. In fact it was probably why Stannis did not like ‘bold’ women of any stripe. Cresson guffawed. The bright side of that was at least one Baratheon didn’t have a string of bastards strewn along half the seven kingdoms.

    “But you are his friend Maester. Friends help each other. When I’m scared or angry you help, right? Stannis looks like he needs that right now. Please help my brother..Please.” There went the damn puppy eyes again. There was a serious intensity behind them that Cressen both approved of and didn’t like. Not one bit.

    “What did you see? What did Stannis say to you?” He found himself growing concerned. Sometimes head injuries caused bad dreams or sudden personality shifts. If the lord of a castle under siege became unbalanced… well bad things would follow.

    Renly looked at the graying man and he seemed to truly be frightened. It wasn’t like when he faced punishment for his impertinence earlier. Cressen had only seen that look when Stannis had been particularly cross or when Renly had spoke of the ‘hungry’ looks he received.

    “If I tell you, will you promise not to tell my brother?” It was serious then. Seven help them all if Stannis was truly mad.

    Cressen placed the boy’s right hand on his own and both over his heart. “By the old gods and the new. Lord Stannis will not have the tale from me. But if he does need help and you held back information it would be a gross neglect of duty to your brother. Isn’t that true my prince?”

    The use of his title and his words had an instant effect. Renly’s face grew stern in a way only a boy trying too hard to be a man could pull off.

    “Whether great or small, rich or poor all must do their duty before the gods, the king, their liege lords and elders. Everyone must apply themselves to the best of his or her ability!” Renly paused and then finished having said the whole quote in one breath.

    Renly's eyes became focused and for a moment Cressen believed he was looking at Stannis or Lord Steffan himself.

    “No matter the cost.” Renly’s small voice once again chilled the old man to the bone. Those words may have come from Stannis, but they were Lord Steffon’s first. Cressen didn’t say anything, but would have to do something about that later on.

    “When my brother came to talk to me about…the execution he was different. He didn’t know but, I could smell his breath. I know he was sick before he came to my room..” Cressen realized the boy meant Stannis had thrown up. Executing those men was necessary after the last attempt, but stoning? It was a form of brutal spectacle not seen since the Dunksdale Defiance. He had recommended a less barbaric death. Stannis had convinced him otherwise, but did his son feel remorse or disgust to that extent? Physical illness over a logical decision once made did not sound like the Stannis he raised.

    “And his eyes, they were puffy. He made me feel better, but I could see that he’d been crying. He said he’d been cutting onions to make some kind of treat for me, but I’m little not stupid.” Crying was not Stannis at all; let alone in anticipation of executing or remembrance of slaying men who did treason while trying to kill him. Something was wrong! He went to get his good shoes, walking stick and a collection of herbs. He had moved so quickly that Renly’s jaw had dropped.

    The chained man turned to see the little boy staring at him with shock. Cresson’s voice changed and he became calm in order to sooth the boys growing anxiety.

    “Thank you for bringing this to my attention so quickly Prince Renly. You have performed your duty with the honor of true Baratheon. I will handle things from here.” He hugged the small child, who for all intents and purposes was his son. Then he escorted him back to his room. Thinking on his feet he assigned a servant to make certain he stayed there. Considering again that he was dealing with a Baratheon he took some herbs, measured a small packet and gave the servant instructions before ensuring the boy that he would have pleasant dreams. Cressen did not want the boy to overhear what he would need to do, and Cressen himself wasn’t even sure what he needed to do.

    When that had been completed he made his way to ‘his favorite’ child’s room. When he wasn’t there the Maester shook his grey head. Then he turned to Prince Stannis’ favorite hiding place when he was younger. Depressed lords of took to drink or other folly. Maester Cresson could do nothing for Lord Steffon in his greatest hour of need. He couldn't keep Robert from his poor choices either. But he would be damned to each of the seven hells before he watched that stubborn fool destroy himself in front of him and his youngest brother.

    That last failure wouldn’t just kill his body but break his soul!
     
  30. Threadmarks: Xendo I - Eddard II
    Black Fyre

    Black Fyre Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
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    Justice should remove the bandage
    From her eyes long enough
    To distinguish between
    the vicious and the unfortunate
    Robert Green Ingersoll


    Ruminations from Shadow part 1

    Xendo Toh
    Sun Spear, Dorne
    Seventh Month of 283 AC


    For Xendo Toh this was the most hectic month of his life since he was forced from Red Flower Vale, his adopted home. Specifically, he was exiled as a result of the strange ritual the land of Alkebulan called warfare. The so called ‘Summer Islanders’ that made up half of his ancestry made war into something that more resembled the blood sport he grew up forced to compete in back in Mereen.

    It shamed him for many nights after their exile that Xendo could not repay Prince Jhalabar Xho for his freedom with victory. Yes, the man had likely freed him from the Mereenese fighting pit because he needed a champion and Xendo conveniently was the son of a Naathi woman and a Walano gladiator. Such a thing qualified him to represent Xho, though Xendo’s father had never set foot on Alkebulon’s third largest island in is his life and had only 4 words of Balawi. He was under no false compunction that Xho’s actions were done out of pure altruism.

    However, there was no one forcing Jhalabar to treat him with respect, dignity and friendship. In truth Jhalabar had sacrificed a kill shot against his opponent to save his life that day. Xendo wasn’t even forced to stay with Xho, as his skill with bow, sword and spear would earn him good coin in almost any ‘free company’ in Essos. Yet Xendo had made Jhalabar his prince and so he stood with him and all his loyal subjects. They bid farewell to all they had known rather than bow before usurpers. Since then all they seemed to know was ever decreasing numbers due to disease, death and desertion. Xho left with four swan ships full of warriors and loyalists a scant 5 years ago and now only 2 ships, some odd 48 ‘true’ warriors and a perhaps a 80 sundry sailors and artisans remained.
    Xendo could see how it pained his lord to beg for aid from strange rulers; many of whom only barely hid their scorn and derision beneath false courtesy. Each time he was rejected Xho would leave behind a part of the joyful and vibrant man he was before Jhalabar's so called brother and various kin joined forces to oust him from his seat. Toh was honestly afraid that sooner or later Jhalabar would snap and either walk over the edge of his ship or turn into mercenary/ pirate like so many other exiles did. From there it was a small step to becoming slaver scum like the men Xendo was rescued from.

    Fortunately for everyone involved they had come to a place called Storm’s End seeking to make common cause with ‘others fighting evil kin’ as his rightful lord said. Xendo assumed that his lord would fight for coin and promises as this Robert seemed the kind to reward good service. Surprisingly, Lord Stannis had requested their presence out of all the various sell swords offering their services. Their priestess had said it was the mark of destiny. Little did Toh know how right she was. Xendo could remember what was said while standing in the gaunt white man’s solar as though it were yesterday.


    Earlier in the month


    Stannis spoke simply. “Tell me in terms of trade value and potential resource allocation what the break even point of invasion costs would be in standard years based on the equinox.”
    Jhalabar was stunned. And when he could not answer the tall white man raised an eyebrow that Xendo had seen before. Xho seemed to deflate and he bowed before he started to turn when the lord continued.

    “I don’t believe I gave you leave to depart your grace.” The words were not spoken mockingly but were instead a command of a noble to another noble guest behaving inappropriately.

    “If you would quit because you can’t provide a reasonable and logical argument what does that say about your cause? If you notice I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you. I asked you to prove it is worth my effort. Aren’t the lives of my warriors worth that much concern?" The reasonableness of the man's words brought Xho up short.

    "If the only reason you can give for someone to support you is noble obliges then I’m sorry to tell you that either you will become a puppet or dead the moment you are no longer useful.” Jhalabar paused and his jaw dropped. However, Stannis looked away from his prince and gazed into his golden eyes and spoke.

    “You are part Naathi are you not? How did you come into Prince Jhalabar’s service?” Xhendo took one look at the man and knew that lying would be bad.

    “I was a fighting slave in Mereen and Prince Jhalabar freed me so that I might join his retinue and defend his claim against his usurping brothers.”

    “So he freed you from the fighting pits only to make you fight?” Stannis’ face was hard to read.

    “No my lord. He freed me and gave me a choice. I could wander Mereen or some other place and likely end up either enslaved again or fighting for food and the entertainment of slaver scum. Or I could become his liege man and gain respect, an honorable living and possibly a family of my own. It was an easy choice!” Stannis looked between the two of them for a few minutes before he spoke again.

    “You have gotten noes and maybes and disdain because you haven’t proven yourself a sound investment. From what I’ve heard you don’t have a vision of what your leadership is or why it is better than that of your brother. Worse, I fear you haven’t even made a sound plan on how to convince your people to accept your breaking of their cultural regulations of warfare."

    "Logically, it sounds like you are asking to become Inkosi rather than simply the prince of one island and that is a large investment. Do you understand the logistics of supplying a force that large across the Summer Sea? I hope you can understand why a king who had to count the funds and food that feed his own people would not rush into something that intensive. I’m speaking the truth because I value reason and logic and so should anyone I choose to associate with. I allocated funds to pay 3 months back wages for your crews as of five hours ago. The writ is on the table to my left and you may take it before you go."

    Both of them were still too shocked to speak. To casually hand away that kind of wealth was unbelievable.

    "Prince Jhalabar Xho you have a choice. You can choose to be angry at an insult I’ve given you. You can say that I have no knowledge of what I talk about and that your pain and misery are not things than can be filed away and your rule doesn’t have to be justified to anyone. You can simply walk away now and I will still give you three months of back pay for your troops."

    "Or you can accept my challenge and work with me, not as a vassal but as valued associate. I don’t promise you an army, but I can offer you stability and a chance to better understand how warfare of the kind you are proposing is carried out by professionals. You might even pick up some more men and resources on your own terms while you are at it, and I will definitely teach you how to manage those. In return you will teach me the methods of your society’s manner of trade, industry and war."

    "What say you?”


    Now


    That was how Xendo and 8 of his best men wound up sitting under the Dornish sun in the Martell's blood Orange orchard listening to a wolf lord argue with the sons of the Sun. It was a strange world at times, but he adjusted the scale armor on his chest and parrot plumed helmet and kept his own counsel.

    Toh knew how this would go. The older Dornisman would fume for a while the younger one made veiled and threatening insults. The wolf would internally fume and quietly accept them as the price for help and a safe conduct. To be honest Xendo could not fault either side for their feelings. The frail looking squash faced elder and the more gaunt man with Yi Tish eyes were upset because they would never see their sister again, while the younger one had a chance to reclaim his own.

    It was why the wolf said nothing to the provocations of the Dornish around them. The only thing they could do is threaten them with impotent rage, and each side knew it. Even though the Starks were not the ones they wished to truly harm they were the serpent's only target. The one they called the Red Viper took his turn once more.

    “Ah it seems that you are allowed to seek your sister by order of the king. Is it not interesting that he sought out and mete justice for her yet the crown denies it to me for mine own?” The voice of Prince Oberyn was scornful for all the flowery language he applied. When Xendo last came here with his own prince to beg aid his sharp tongue wasn’t quite as bad. Then again had Jhalabar or Xendo given insult to Elia or one of his court they likely wouldn’t have escaped without substantially more than a tongue lashing, if they left alive at all. One did not want a Dornishman angry with them, let alone the Red Viper.

    “Prince Oberyn, Prince Doran I can not say how greatly the deaths of Princess Elia and her children grieves me. It was dishonorable..” The prince sitting on the dais raised his hand and Eddard stopped speaking. Xendo could see the great difficulty the wolf lord was having keeping himself from reacting to the scorn his entourage had met. Xendo himself had only been lightly touched by it, though it was likely because he was seen as a mercenary. That and he had left a favorable impression on some of the servant women when he was last here.

    The black man with his mothers's golden brown eyes subtly nodded at Aliza, a scullery maid he had become 'acquainted' with during Xho’s last attempt at gaining Dornish support last year. She pretended to ignore him but signed underneath the hem of her dress.

    “And I suppose your condemnation of rape and murder makes everything all better? Lord Stark said murdering children is dishonorable and we can just go on about our business and justice is met.

    ” There were guffaws all around. That seemed to cause the veins on Eddard’s neck to stand up and he began to rise. Suddenly the air became a great deal more humid as various knights and warriors reached not so subtly for their weapons.

    They had been given guest right and Xendo’s understanding was whoever broke it first would be in the wrong should it come to trial. For a moment he wondered if that had been Prince Doran’s intention as he was always considered the crafty one and the death of Robert’s brother by choice would be a potent revenge. Considering that they were outnumbered considerably and the former gladiator's orders were to keep Stark alive Xendo rose and made his way to calm Lord Stark. However, before he could place a restraining hand on the northern lord, Howland intercepted him and fixed him a look. Trusting someone who likely played his own role more than once; Xendo stopped and rested his hand on his bow. It would only take him three seconds to plant an arrow in the face of anyone here so he didn’t need to join in the threat display.

    These Westerosi knights and lords were behaving worse than some novice pit fighters in the coliseum under the great pyramid of Mereen. All they had to do now was grab their genitals and fly the fig. Fortunately, Eddard Stark was far more in control than he let on.

    “I can not understand how you feel and I won’t insult you by saying I do. Every relationship with a brother or sister is special in its own way. I loved Brandon in a different way than I love Benjen or Lyanna. I couldn’t say how I would feel if Lyanna had been in Elia’s place. But I do know what it is to lose a brother because a monster perverted justice solely because he had the power to do so and enjoyed inflicting misery on others." Eddard then turned to Oberyn.

    "It burns a hole my gut every day knowing that I was to damned far away to do anything about it. Brothers are supposed to look after their siblings and I failed in that. Maybe it is delusion, he was the heir and my duty was to obey but the loss of my father and brother will never stop hurting. Aerys is dead, Rheagar is dead but that doesn’t make the hurt go away. The anger I feel won’t go away until I breath my last."

    "All I can do now is try to be a better brother for Lyana and Benjen than I was for Brandon. I will do anything, anything within my power to make sure she is returned home safely. It’s the only thing I know how to do. Tearing each other apart won’t change anything, but it will make more victims of that mad kings evils. Is that what you really want Prince Doran? Is that the legacy you want for your sister?”

    It was if a new person took over. Doran raised his hand and almost all of his attendants walked out of sight. The only one who remained was a tall bearded man with a large two handed axe. The obvious Norvosi bearded priest did not speak but Xendo could see his own reflection in his eyes. It was almost as he was seeing the so called onion knight again despite their physical differences. Oh Xendo and the northerners knew there were some archers and others within easy reach, but the gesture was one of respect. As the maid passed out she made another sign he pretended not to notice.

    "I know you find the death of women and children sickening. I won’t hold you responsible for the crimes of others.” Oberyn deliberately and slowly walked toward Lord Stark and gave him a scroll. That he personally took the effort to walk with his affliction was a further show of respect, one that Stark understood.

    “This is my compliance with our king’s orders. All Dornish sworn to my service will provide you with anything you need, food, water, guides. For what its worth I hope you find Lyanna alive and unharmed. He has better brothers than he deserves.” Who Doran meant by that was obvious and while Stark seem puzzled by his statement, Xendo was not going to be the one to spill that secret. The wolf lord would find out on his own eventually.

    “Go in peace Lord Stark.” He and the rest turned to leave, but Doran’s voice cut their motion short.

    ”One more thing. While you are right and nothing will fill the hole in our hearts, there will be justice. Tell our king that when next you meet him.”

    Xendo shuddered at the softly spoken threat. It implied that nothing would stop him when he was ready to take the justice due him, and Stark would be wise to not be in his path. Xendo shook his head once more when the Martel brothers were out of view.

    Things like this would never have happened in the Summer Island. Princes or even high priests who harmed their wives or tortured children would be put to death long before it had come to this. Truly these Westerosi could learn much from his people.

    He forgot about such complex and terrible things and sought out the public baths and a flagon of wine. He had somewhere to be shortly before they set sail again, and a more pleasant farewell was in store. He smiled, his white teeth contrasting against his dark skin. Dornish women truly were special indeed.

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________​


    Suns and Stars Part 1

    Eddard
    5 Leagues from the Vultures Roost, Dorne
    After resupplying at Castle Wyl and sailing to the mouth of the River Wyl
    Eighth Month of 283 AC


    The newest Lord Paramount of the north cursed inwardly. He began to seriously doubt Lord Stannis’ plan. If Ned had just listened to his first instinct he might have avoided this situation. Seven ‘poorly armored’ men might not be a strong force, but they could move a good deal faster than this group. Having to carry more water to avoid drying out in this accursed sun was becoming infuriating. Sure they would only need to don armor when expecting a fight, but this part of Dorne was crawling with people itching to spill blood for one cause or another. To make matters worse, almost all of those reasons had not a whit to do with him! From lost relatives and friends on the Black Water, to ancient feuds with the Storm Lands or the insult offered to them by Elia’s unpunished murder he was surrounded by people looking for an excuse to take out their frustrations on the first available target. The list was not a short one and it didn’t exclude the bandits either. And those also included people he needed to ask for help!

    The wolf lord stopped cursing his trusting nature and swung Ice in a figure eight pattern. The Valyrian two handed great sword parted the offending brigand in drab gray robes from his two handed spear, and the right arm that was wielding it. An arrow from a short bow bounced off his right side aventail as Ned removed his primary attackers head while covering a wicked diagonal cut from a falchion type short sword.

    Ned punched his right gauntlet into the face of his attacker and hoped his ‘support’ would do their job. As the brigands were largely unarmored and rather poorly armed the man wearing the dirty white turban could only howl in pain as the lobstered steel fist broke teeth, jaw and his nose. Ned had to admit there was a serious upside to being the only ones in good armor, despite how much it was like an oven in this heat.

    The Dornish archer, who was angling for another shot at him grew a third eye made of wood when the tall black man with golden eyes sent a yard long shaft into his forehead. Xendo and the other Summer Is… no Alkebeloni were positioned in the ring of relaxed horses and picking off enemies at their leisure. It was a maneuver that Stannis had them practice before they left Storm’s End where they used kneeling horses wearing chain mail as additional cover from enemy arrows.

    Ned ran the edge of his magic sword along the right side of the would be thief’s neck in a withdrawal draw cut and kicked him over as he clutched at his throat. In the same motion he nodded at Xendo, who put an arrow into the horse of a man who tried to rush his group with a lance. Yes the mounted ones had some mail and scale but alas sand steeds were not made for heavy armor. And even had his mount been armored longbows arrows were not stopped at this distance without a combination of mail and gambeson.

    Thus the man in blue wool took a rather nasty stumble as his horse collapsed with an arrow through its throat. An ordinary longbow was death to anyone who wasn’t wearing plate at up to 200 yards. Six of those Summer Islanders were absolute masters of a weapon second only to dragon bone in its range and penetration ability. At less than 50 meters these raiders were committing suicide.

    Though Ned had to admit these bandits had courage. Not many would choose to fight a large group of armored knights, even if they had cut their avenue of retreat. None of them broke the charge even as they left men or horses on the ground between their camp and the very deadly men with their equally deadly bows. It was after all their only real avenue of escape. Howland Reed had set up the battlefield with fiendish detail. If any of these scum had information about the 3 white swords none could be afforded to escape. Time was precious and every clue mattered.

    The final four somehow made it to 30 meters and one of them managed to land a bowshot to the midsection of the man to golden eye’s right. His golden scale turned the blow, but it did knock the man down while spoiling the aim of the archer to his right. Not that it did him any good as his chest in turn sprouted four shafts that punched through his mail rather easily and exited at least two inches on the other side. The raider slid from his horse as his companions, likely deserters from the host Llewyn led at the Blackwater continued their dash for freedom.

    The man to his right leveled his lance at Xondo who lowered his precious bow with not great haste and picked up his own spear. This wasn’t the short Asagie stabbing spear, but the slim elegant one about half again the size of his long arm. With a graceful arc he sent it at the broken man who interposed his shield, only for the deceptive power behind it to unhorse him. As he fell the horse turned and almost trampled him.

    Another man’s helmet collapsed inward as a fist sized stone careened off his forehead; courtesy of the seventh man in the group of black men. Slings were not unknown in Westeros but among the Isles of Alkebulon iron was rare and men made war with what they had. This man, Matoga Mo was also a Prince’s champion and thus a master with his own chosen weapon.

    The last two would be escapees were dealt with by Howland Reed. Or rather by the pit traps he had placed in front of the black men’s position. Not for the first time did Eddard Stark realize just how valuable the Crannogmen were to the defense of the north. They did not train knights and their method of warfare was just as practical as it was savage. Each of the meter long circles had what were known as Crow’s Feet. Horses that did not break their legs in the fall would find themselves impaled through their hooves even through their iron shoes. Both the curios type of spade used to quickly dig those pits, called a ‘entrenchment tool’, and the five pronged ‘jacks’ were gifts of Lord Stannis. Coincidentally the Storm Lord introduced a game using a smaller and safer version of the small horrors and a leather ball, saying it was a method of improving dexterity.


    20 minutes later


    That was the last of the combat as the rest of the lot promptly surrendered, netting him about thirteen prisoners with various degrees of wounds. His own losses were negligible. Thanks to the armor and overwhelming force they had dealt with the band of seventy bandits led by ‘Lord Buzzard’ to a man without loosing anyone. Yes four men had bad bruises and there were a few cuts here and there but none were out of the fight or would have to return. Two horses had to be put down, but he could simply replace them with those of the bandits or from the next holdfast he came across.

    Stark also recovered eleven peasants and traders, formerly captives. They were mostly young women who were in various stages of shock, anger and gratitude. Eddard's grim face grew wroth when he considered exactly why his native ‘guide’ had suggested this path, but it lightened somewhat when he saw Alon wrap his arms around a woman and girl in the corner. The child had his brown hair and her black eyes, marking them as a family. The girl couldn’t have seen more than 12 years of life, but her face was that of a crone! Ned had seen that look before and he swore under his breath. There would be no convenient reprieve for men capable of such within his reach!

    Lord Stark seriously doubted he would find any intelligence leading to his sister here, but he did learn a few valuable lessons. The first he knew already and was that small folk were the ones who suffered the most in the so called game of thrones. The second was that he should probably follow Stannis’s suggestion about relying more on his own scouts and Stannis’ prior research. The man might be more involved in his business than he had right to be but Stannis certainly knew war.
     
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