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The Defiance of Dorne (ASOIAF AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by molemole, Apr 12, 2018.

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    molemole

    molemole Versed in the lewd.

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    A plot bunny I wanted to pursue: PoD is that King Baelor the Blessed is poisoned on his peace mission to Dorne, as is Aemon the Dragonknight. As per canon Baelor was poisoned and lived, here he died. As per canon Aemon was held above a pit of vipers, here he dies.

    King's Landing, 162AC

    The Red Keep was one of the marvels of the known world, and undoubtably the most deadly place in Westeros. The king lay in state in his chambers, catatonic from half a hundred viper bites. The Kingsguard were crippled and their leader, the famed Dragonknight lay dead.
    The Hand of the King, Viserys Targaryen knows all of this, and knows that any hope of peace is shattered. The kingdoms march to war, to avenge the losses and humiliations of Daeron's earlier invasion of Dorne - and the throne must not be seen as lacking.
    The Master of Ships seems to agree. Lord Denys Redwyne has been on a tirade before the king for the last ten minutes, and Viserys honestly thinks that's ten minutes too long. "Lord Denys. I realize that the Reach has...grievances...with Dorne, but we have already seen much fall of blood. What do you propose - stripped of the embellishment?"

    The man flushes and points once more to the map of the kingdoms unrolled on the Small Council table. The Lord Commander, Ser Daeron Waters leans over the map, looking rather interested as the rest of the council files in.
    "Once more then, milord of grapes? Perhaps this time we will have victory, then? Or will the grapes bleed dry in the desert like everyone else?" The Master of Whisperers is Lord Duncan Darklyn, a fat man with what one might call laughing eyes, if a torturer could laugh. Denys Redwyne ignores him and pushes on.
    "The Dornish have taken losses as well, milords. We have looted the Boneway and the Prince's Pass bare, and there will be little harvest for them. The deserts of Hellholt and the Scourge are their only defence before we land troops in Sunspear."
    There is one problem Viserys can see, and he lets Lord Steffon Tarth, Master of Coin raise the points instead. "We have not the coin to rebuild the royal fleet after the skirmishes at Bloodstone, and the Arbor and the Lannisters lack the numbers and motivation. The treasury cannot afford sellsails and Essosi, milord. Not enough to land an army on the Broken Arm[2]."

    "Not much of an army either. The Crownlands and the Stormlords are exhausted, and the Reach and Westerlands want more of a bribe to join." Daeron Waters recites the last part with relish, watching as Redwyne and Tarth simply look blank in the face of the blame. "We have few sources of troops we have not levied, my lords. As Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, I can say that we have not the troops for another try through the Pass, and barely enough for this landing."
    They're all looking at Viserys, now. A silent sigh and he speaks, tired of this burden. "To summarize, we have no army, no fleet and our subjects have to be bribed to participate in this campaign after the disaster that was Daeron's invasion."
    They nod. Fucking idiots.
    "We have enough in the Treasury to arm a few Essosi companies, that can serve for an army. The fleet, well, we have to find some bribes I believe."

    "My lord, I believe that it is not wise to try that, we will lose credibility with another loss. The histories are clear, no-one has successfully taken Dorne." The Grand Maester's voice is reedy and weak from age, but his intent is clear. No more war, for the bloodshed will be in vain.
    The Hand moves to crush this one. The throne needs a show of strength, and Viserys cannot allow dissent at this time. "Yet we have been played for fools, Grand Maester Munkun. We have lost a Lord Commander of the Kingsguard to treachery, the King is in a coma from poisoning and the hostages they swore to return are dead. All this after a penitent march through the Boneway and the abasing of the king himself. We cannot have this."
    The last sentence is delivered in a furious hiss, Denys Redwyne and Daeron Waters nodding alongside.

    Calming himself, the Hand delivers orders, curt tone indicating that objections are finished. "Lord Darklyn. I want information on Dornish movements. Who are they speaking with in Essos, what are they planning after they won at Bloodstone Strait, and what our Lannisters and Ironborn want as a bribe.
    Waters. Get me names. I want reliable men from the last few campaigns, hired individually. Send out a proclamation of sorts, the way Daeron did it[1], and filter the men yourself.
    Redwyne. Tell your family to raise the fleets, and get me what the Tyrells want for their aid. I need the men and ships of the Shields and the Mander at the least.
    You have your orders, milords. You know what must be done."

    The council leave, and the Hand of the King sits alone for a moment, wineglass in hand. It all went to shit so damned fast. The disaster saw two Lord Paramounts' heirs dead, the king and many royals dead, and the Kingdoms humiliated. The septons preached war on every corner, Baelor the Blessed being 'struck down by Rhoynish treachery'.
    The Dragonknight - his son - dead. His son.
    Bottling things up, the Hand moves to leave. Weakness benefits no-one, and grief here would be a weakness.

    The Dornish Marches, 162AC.

    Arrows flew through the air, rattling from breastplates and shields. The odd scream from the shieldwall indicated a hit, but Ser Davos of Longcroft wasn't very hopeful. After the treachery at Wyl, the Hand had ordered freeriders, sellswords and all manner of riffraff free rein to pillage and loot across the sands. The Dornish didn't take it too well, apparently.

    Longcroft Keep was a lone tower with curtain wall in the midst of the road to the Boneway. It is a bare stone structure older than the road it lies on, built atop the bones of centuries of Stormlander dead.
    Right now, it acts as a base for sellswords and freeriders to raid the Dornish vineyards and towns near Wyl, and hosts a good fifty men-at-arms. To eliminate the raids, one must take Blackhaven, the castle guarding the passes into the Boneway. To take Blackhaven, one must take Longcroft.

    Which was why a fair few Dornish infantry were moving to Longcroft's walls with ladders. An escalade, and the garrison depleted after the horrendous losses of the last raid.
    "One more volley, boys. Then we put the toys away and bring out the oil!" A roar from Davos to his thirty surviving men gets a hoarse cheer and another volley of arrows, again to little effect. Again the Dornishmen press on, the banner of House Wyl fluttering in the breeze, taunting him.

    "Oil! I want shieldsmen and oil here, right fucking now!" Ten men move forwards, heavy shields and short chopping blades ready. Behind then on the walls are a few men with kettles and hot steel troughs of oil, gripped in white-knucked tongs.
    The enemy have reached the walls, and the ladders hit them. The infantry move, Davos among them and a young tanned face moves atop the battlements. Davos' sword splits it cleanly, no scream as the boy falls from the ladder, pushed aside by the next man.
    The Stormlanders are pushed back, a knot of orange and yellow forming like pus on the walls as they fall back.
    That's when the oil falls. The towers above have the oil kettles, hot oil and refuse tossed on the ladders and setting them alight.
    Dornish screams of pain fill the air as Davos and his men-at-arms hack their way through frenzied attackers on the walls. The stench of pork and the heaving of his stomach are the only things Davos can think about as he hacks through a young boy - can't be even fifteen - and kills him.

    Abruptly, the remaining few Dornish drop their weapons, and are taken below to what few cells Longcroft has.
    The main Dornish force pulls back, infantry exhausted.
    One more day, and perhaps aid will come. Davos is honestly doubtful, but tells his men anyways. Hope always helps.

    In the yellow pavilion, Lord Terence Wyl looks livid as he shouts at a quivering subordinate. "You mean to say that you rushed the men ahead, brought up ladders and ordered an escalade. Without archers, without offering terms and most of all without permission. Now I have perhaps forty dead and injured, and the rest of the men slowly marching up.
    You were held up at fucking Longcroft. A fucking one-horse keep smaller than one fucking tower in Wyl."

    Marence Sand stands perfectly still, taking the verbal lashing without a word as his lord vents his spleen on failure. Once Terence Wyl dies down he offers a verdict , "My lord, we may have failed, but the castle is isolated. Their sellswords and raiders cannot push into the Boneway now, and taking this will mean full-out war."
    "It's already war, Sand. After all that crap from the Targaryens, we have little choice. They had thirteen hostages, all of them children. That is what we face, all monsters."

    Marence Sand does not mention that it was Terence Wyl that dangled Aemon Targaryen over a pit of vipers, and that it is his fault that this war continues.
    The tension and perpetual stress his lord is under is enough that there is little need to remind him. The Martells are not happy, not at all.

    King's Landing, 162AC

    One and a half months. That was how long it took for Aeron Greyjoy to attend upon his king, and for Tommen Lannister to send his 'profound regrets' about his inability to come.
    Fucking cunts.
    Aeron Greyjoy kneels before the Iron Throne, eyes on the Hand as he sits before it in a simple wooden chair. His words are honeyed and false, eyes showing no more emotion than a shark.
    Viserys thinks he's the perfect find.
    "Milord Targaryen, I come as summoned by the King, and out of concern for the health of the king I bring gifts, gifts of healing and good fortune."
    A chest is brought forward, likely full of the religious trinkets Baelor likes. Still, pleasantries..."The Iron Throne accepts your gifts and I welcome you in the name of the King to the Red Keep. We have much to discuss, milord."

    He stands and leaves, the Milord Targaryen an implied insult to the Hand of the King. Viserys doesn't think much of the man, but he looks perfect for the task.
    Ambition is always useful if guided after all.

    The Small Council meeting is late that day, and before the council meets, the Hand speaks with Aeron Greyjoy in front of a map of Westeros. Tokens representing armies are placed around Dorne, but there are few fleets on the map.
    "Milord Hand. You want my ships." Blunt enough.
    "Yes, I do. I want dead Dornish as well, but I need your ships for that."
    The ironborn smiles, vicious and approving. "We can always understand vengeance, milord. The Ironborn pay their debts in full, as do any sailing folk."
    "Do they? What would you have from me, then, to do your duty to the crown?"
    A quick inclination of the head, acknowledging that acerbic reference to their doubtful loyalty. Still, Aeron Greyjoy is Lord Paramount for a reason. "Our duty was done in full, in gold. Our gold paid the young king's campaign in lieu of our men going to die, milord Hand. What remains is what can be given in exchange for our service, as a liege may do."

    A rather unsubtle reminder of failure, that. No indication showing on his face of mounting fury, Viserys simply asks. "What would you have of the throne, Aeron Greyjoy? A post? Gold? Loot and land of Dorne? There is much I can offer, and you know that as well."
    A short bark of a laugh from the reaver, "I want Master of Ships. I want command. Give me that and the Iron Fleet sails for the Broken Arm, my reavers aboard."
    "That's all?"
    "That's all. Master of Ships and permission to take the Iron Price - which your greenlanders will do anyways in a sack. But will you give me that and get rid of your Redwyne?"
    Viserys grins, sharp and satisfied. "Done and done, milord of the Iron Islands. Remember your word, and watch silently. I will handle Denys."

    A nod from the Ironborn, and the two wait a few moments as the Kingsguard at the door calls for the other members of the small council.
    Denys Redwyne looks surprised to see the ironborn there, and sends a questioning look to Viserys. It's ignored in favor of opening statements.
    "Milords, the king remains in bedridden, and unable to rule. The Dornish have rejected an offer of restitution, claiming that this is no fault of theirs - diplomacy is now off the table."
    It doesn't bear mentioning that he sent Daeron Waters to do the negotiating. Not the most diplomatic person, that.
    "Lord Darklyn. What news from Dorne?"Hopefully something good, the gods know good news can bring swords now.
    The fat man bows and sits again, riffling through parchment until he finds something to begin with. "Milord Hand, we have agents in the Dornish dockyards in Sunspear and in the camps in Wyl and the Prince's Pass.
    The docks at Sunspear have been seeing far more Lysene and Tyroshi traffic than normal, and there are reports of warships from the Three Daughters in the Sunspear naval harbor. I fear we see the Dornish reaching across the Narrow Sea for allies."
    Steffon Tarth picks up where Darklyn left off, "As Master of Coin, I believe I know what the Dornish have bribed them with. While the vaults of Sunspear are empty, the Daughters can be bribed with a monopoly over the Stepstone trade and any traffic around Dorne to the west."

    "Which will not be tolerated in Braavos and Volantis, milord. We simply wait for a conflict involving Lys and Tyrosh, allowing Dorne to make peace with honor as their allies crumble." The Grand Maester's plan makes sense, but for one factor. A factor that Aeron Greyjoy is all too happy to illustrate.
    "Because the Braavosi see no profit in war. Raiding and conflict in the Disputed Lands, yes. Sponsoring strife in the puppet-cities of the coasts, yes. But nothing stops the Dornish from commissioning ships in the arsenals of Lys, Tyrosh and Myr. Which is what will be done in this case, not direct aid."
    Nods along the table, and in the face of the interruption by Aeron, Viserys has little choice but to introduce him. "Aeron Greyjoy, Lord Paramount of the Iron Isles will be an advisor on the fleets of the Stepstones. The sellsails of the Narrow Sea as well."

    Denys Redwyne seems mollified, and Darklyn continues his briefing. "We also have Dornishmen moving along the Boneway, into the Marches. The stormlords call for aid, and there is talk of a new levy in one month's time."
    "We knew that when Longcroft fell, milord. We knew that Wyl marched on the Marches, and the Martells are moving as well. Tell me something new."
    In the face of royal frustration, Darklyn sweats as he replies. "There are many sellswords moving in from Essos, milord. Companies from the Disputed Lands, infantry mostly."
    A grunt as the Hand acknowledges the news, and the council turns its attention to the proposed naval campaign of Denys Redwyne.

    The man places a ship token at the mouth of the Mander on the map, and another at the Arbor. "We have a fleet, milords. Forty war galleys in the Arbor, and another twenty from the Shields and Highgarden. Eighty armed cogs and another fifty light galleys to round things off, and we can life perhaps five thousand men with this force."
    Good. The better to burn the Dornish with. Viserys keeps a grin from his face as he questions the Master of Ships on the condition of his new fleet, and Steffon Tarth protests the cost. "This will cost perhaps a hundred thousand dragons, milords. Money we can ill-afford. What is promised to the Reach to mobilize, and how much is borne by the crown?"

    Another smile from Denys, "Two-thirds of the cost paid by the crown. The remainder paid by the Reach and House Tyrell, and estates in Dorne near the Torrentine and the Elbow to go to the Tyrells, Redwynes and Hightowers."
    Another satisfied grunt from the Hand, and a smooth reply, cutting through the bickering. "Done. We can accept these terms, but we will not be bound as far as where the granted lands may be. In the meantime, you have command of this expedition, Denys. Do us proud."
    An implicit promise of rich reward and a massive command are enough to bring a smile to Denys Redwyne's face as Viserys continues. "In the meantime, while the fleet is moving, Aeron Greyjoy will serve as Master of Ships. Denys retains an advisor's seat in the council for that duration."
    Nods from the council again, although both Redwyne and Greyjoy look disappointed. Aeron looks at Viserys with grudging respect as he files out, while Denys looks betrayed.
    Viserys tells himself it's worth it.

    Braavos, 162AC

    "Your king wants what, exactly?" Daario Antaryon is a portly man with cold eyes, the picture of a Braavosi banker. He eyes a rather sheepish-looking Steffon Tarth from across a polished mahogany table, incredulity in his eyes.
    "The king asks for a loan of fifty thousand dragon, at the usual interest rates. He reminds the Iron Bank of the good credit of the Targaryen dynasty, and hopes it is looked on favorably."
    Steffon Tarth shifts uncomfortably as he delivers the last line, painfully aware of the disfavor that House Targaryen and most Valyrian-blooded were held in in Braavos.

    The banker replies slowly, choosing his words with care. "Lord Tarth. Your request for a loan on the old terms is denied, by order of the keyholders. However, there are odd tidings from the Stepstones, and the Sealord wishes to meet you. As a representative of your king."
    Tarth nods, waiting for the sting.
    "You will meet at the Iron Bank, a room has been set aside for your use. This meeting is of course completely unrecorded."
    "Agreed, Master Antaryon. I will be there."
    "And I will not, Lord Tarth. Good day to you." On that ambiguous note, Steffon Tarth leaves the bank, failing one mission and another on his plate.
    Ser Samwell Buckler falls in on his left, a hulking man in scarred grey plate. "Milord Tarth. What say the merchants?"
    "Little. We are to meet the Sealord this evening, and in secret. Time will tell at this point, Ser." The Master of Coin sounds tired, and the knight at his side marches on, hand on swordhilt as they move.

    Night comes, and the lord and his shield are woken by a bravo, soft raps on the door announcing his presence. The bravo sent to guide them is as foppishly dressed as the rest of them, bright silks and a slate-gray favor on his arm. The rapier at his side is sharp, and Ser Samwell knows well he may be a threat.
    "Come, Westerosi. We have little time, and the Sealord awaits. I will guide you, and you may call me Second."
    They follow the man out the door of their inn to the streets of the city, its canals stinking in the windless night.

    Braavos is the bastard daughter of old Valyria, born of slave revolts and migrations. it is a city of ships and traders, and has been for millennia. The canals and bridges that Lord Tarth is led across, and the graceful, sweeping architecture are all testament to the prosperity trade has brought Braavos, and the bravos swaggering down the streets a reminder that its people can still fight.

    The Westerosi are guided to a side entrance to the massive building that is the Iron Bank's headquarters. Built austerely of gray stone with iron doors, it looks oddly simple for such a powerful place. Yet there it is, with a guard at the door to allow them in.
    Lord Steffon Tarth is guided in, and Samwell Buckler stays outside, as per the demands earlier. The bravo leaves, wishing Tarth good luck, westerosi - you will need it.
    Steffon Tarth moves in slowly, keeping the image of a weary old man. He sees a neatly furnished room, chairs lining a plain wooden table and wine and fruits present. At the head of the table is Syrio Fregar, the Sealord of Braavos.

    "Welcome, Lord Tarth. Sit, and we will speak of matters of interest. Some wine, perhaps?" At Tarth's assent, the Sealord pours him a Dornish red, dark as blood. A taunt, perhaps?
    The Braavosi's thin frame seems to exude energy and his speech is the same, as it turns out. Blunt, fast and utterly concise. "Lord Tarth. You come as a representative of Viserys Targaryen, Hand of the King. You need money for your Dornish war, and the vaults of the throne are bare. Correct?"
    Steffon nods, waiting for the offer.
    "We in Braavos find that a Dornish alliance with Tyrosh and Myr to be disadvantageous. As such, we are prepared to fund your loan in exchange for monopoly rights to the Stepstone trade and an enclave in King's Landing."
    "Which is unacceptable, Sealord. The king would not part with any of his patrimony that easily, and you no doubt know that."
    "What I can say is that my fleet can break the Stepstone blockade, and that the Dornish trade has withered after your war. I care little for that loss, but the inconvenience caused to some of my people is not so small."
    Meaning he can take it, and bargains from strength. Steffon sighs and begins to rise, "If we are so much at odds, honored Sealord, perhaps I may meet with the Iron Bank instead?"
    "As I mentioned, there is room for bargaining. I will take the same interest as your earlier loans, and leave the enclave option. Is this more amenable?"
    Steffon sits once again, and begins to haggle. "Indeed, but monopoly conditions will kill our trade, perhaps..."
    It lasts long into the night, but he has a deal. The Sealord provides the loan to the crown at the rate of six and a half percent, a full two over the old rate but less than the bank's. The crown undertakes to give the Braavosi a base in the Stepstones, or at least to back their claim to a 'protectorate' over Bloodstone should Lys or Tyrosh get involved. If not, Braavos gets sole rights among the Narrow Sea free cities in the ports of Wyl, the Arbor, Storm's End and Duskendale for a decade.
    Not a good deal, but one that may be good enough.
    Steffon Tarth does not know as he walks under the gray Braavosi sky that his deal will spark decades of blood and slaughter.


    [1] The English typically hired 'free companies' of Englishmen from the home isles on a contract basis, usually via proclamation. This occurs in the Hundred Years War, well before the period ASOIAF is based on.

    [2]The area of Dorne on the Narrow Sea coast - Lemonwood, Sunspear , Plankytown and a few other lordships. Delta of the Greenblood.
     
  2. Yinko

    Yinko Versed in the lewd.

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    Just to be sure, you do realize that the Century of Blood is already a thing? It's the 300 years or so after the fall of Valyria, when everyone was fighting over the scraps of what was left. Actually, the whole geography of a lot of places radically changed during that time, Qarth became a bit player from an empire, the inland sea of the Fisher Queens dried up, Sarnath fell, Gorgoross got wiped out, etc.

    So, when I saw the title I got hyped for how awesome a story about Essos during that time period would be, then it was this... Yeah.
     
  3. molemole

    molemole Versed in the lewd.

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    Apologies. Basing this loosely off a Hundred Years' War type of thing, so I thought it fitting.
    You think it ought to be changed?
     
  4. Darth.

    Darth. I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Yeah same. Its still interesting although the title is very misleading.

    Not so. Its a period of time lasting about a hundred years (hence century of blood and not centuries). Volantis tried to name itself successor to Valyria and got beaten back by the city states repeatedly, the God-King of Ibbis was overthrown, the Dothraki sacked a bunch of Qaathi cities, a bunch of cities were flooded in tsunamis etc etc. You got that part right. Basically towards the end of the century of blood is when Aegon launched his conquest of Westeros which itself happened about a century after the Doom of Valyria.

    If you're interested in Essosi lore, might I suggest this excellent quest: The Dragon Has Three Heads

    Despite it being billed as NSFW there's really not much sex in there. Less than the ASOIAF books I'd say, and most of what sex is there in fan-made omakes which can be skipped. And no I'm not self-promoting - its not my quest.
     
  5. Yinko

    Yinko Versed in the lewd.

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    I thought it was more iffy on the exact time frame. Nevermind, the wiki supports you on all counts.

    As for alternate names. Could just go super obvious and call it something like "The Hundred Years War (ASOFIAF)", or something like that. It's up to you man.
     
  6. molemole

    molemole Versed in the lewd.

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    Better?
     
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  7. Darth.

    Darth. I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I read the wiki just today for the quest I linked to ;)

    Yeah, although it wasn't such a big deal before don't worry. Only people who're big GoT nerds would get taken in by the title :p Like me and Yinko
     
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  8. Yinko

    Yinko Versed in the lewd.

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    looking at the actual story, instead of nitpicking.

    Taking Dorne would actually be not that hard. There are two major groups, the Salt Dornish and the Sand Dornish. The Sand ones rely entirely on the Green Blood River and trade through Planky Town. Planky Town is, as it sounds, a fucking shanty that no one has ever actually bothered to invest in. So burn that to the ground, burn Sunspear. The Dornish are always boasting how they will just melt into the sands and focus on a guerrilla war, but that's not actually that sustainable when the attackers don't set foot on desert soil, instead focusing on making sure that the fields stay fallow and the people starve over the months and years.

    The Stone Dornish are harder, because they probably have actual rainfall. That would be the hold out. Hitting them from the north wouldn't really work, since that just heads into the Sand Dornish lands, so you would have to go from the coast upwards, and that is a pain in the ass since that makes you supply line naval. The Dornish crown might retreat to the Stone lands, or they might not, either way the Stone landers are going to quickly become the most influential lords in the land, as they try to hold off invasion via exploitation of "I have the high ground!"
     
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  9. Threadmarks: 2.
    molemole

    molemole Versed in the lewd.

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    King's Landing, 162AC

    The capital of the Seven Kingdoms sprawls like a massive tumor at the mouth of the Blackwater, larger than any other city on the continent. The Landing is home to more than a million people, perhaps fewer souls and the foulest stenches in the continent as well. All the same though, there is power in this city, home to the king and his court, home to the largest seaport in Westeros and home to the great trading houses of the crownlands, such as they are.
    One can tell the merchant princes' dwellings from the nobility's by their stark plainness and size. Large, yet plainly built with no ornamentation, they have thick, high walls and barred gates, small forts near the riverbank keeping out the riffraff.

    In one such place is a meeting of nobles, in a place of coin and trade. "The Hand means war, as you well know. The question here is not whether or not we fight, but whether this will be beneficial or no." The speaker is a skeletal man with rather large beard, a skull and heart on his tunic. Ser Amory Brune talks with almost magisterial authority, and the small room of crownlanders hangs on his words. "We are the men who will be called in to fight and die, and the lords paramount may well refuse once again. Who died in the Scourge, and whose supplies were raided in the retreat to Nightsong? Crownlanders. Who fought slow sieges and held feasts and tournaments? The Reachmen. We know how this will go, my lords. Now we must decide on what to so about it."

    "Perhaps, but some of us have more to lose than you, Ser Amory. You know that. To go against the Hand at this time is not a risk we will take." Lady Joanna Rosby, ruling by virtue of the death of every other male line Rosby looks at Amory with cold anger as she speaks. "I am not the only one here like this, Lonmouth. Defying the Hand will earn us little, and what do we care for a few dead smallfolk?"

    "Because arming those smallfolk means sending men-at-arms as well? Because our houses are being impoverished by this war? Because our brothers, fathers and husbands ought not to have died for nothing? " Gyles Boggs is a thickset, bull-necked man with an impressive look of contempt. "You would sit in Rosby castle and leave the blood of your husband and son on Dornish blades unavenged?"
    The septon sitting nearby chimes in, his white robes and beard incongruous in the gray chambers. "The Rhoynar spit on the Faith, with their practices. They have committed treachery most vile, upon the holiest king in a thousand years. The gods judge your actions, my lords."
    "The gods look and do nothing, Septon Merribald. My sons all died there, in the Boneway. What gods intervened, to save a man one of four sons? None. Do not speak of Gods in this, septon. I am here for vengeance, not the Seven." Boggs' near-blasphemy simply gets a sympathetic blessing from the septon, in the name of the Father.

    Brune goes on, in the silence afforded by his three fellows. "Then the consensus is that we cannot afford to not answer the call. However, we still have not the men and arms to throw into Dorne - not after the last time. I have suggestions, should you hear me out."
    "Speak, then. Don't faff about, boy." Boggs' remarks bring a flush to the knight's cheeks, but no further reaction as he continues. "Simple. We hire and pay sellsword companies or contract out our own free companies. In the case of Lady Joanna, we attach her men to ours, or she finds a reliable knight to lead them."
    "Contracted Essosi cannot be expected to fight well in the Seven's name." The septon does not like this plan, and he makes that vocally clear. "I am here as a voice of sympathy in the Faith, milords. I have seen what the crownlands have sacrificed. Yet you propose to allow Essosi slavers and heathens to fight in the name of the anoited king?"
    "Perhaps not in the name of the Seven, but they can damn well fight, I'll say that much. Besides, what can the Faith offer as an alternative? I'm not sending the last of my men to die, and I'm not leaving my lands defenceless." Boggs' reply is again curt and dismissive, yet the question seems almost hopeful as he replies to Septon Merribald.

    "The Faith as a whole cannot provide an alternative without breaking Maegor's Laws. However, we can...encourage the smallfolk of King's Landing to enlist in free companies, and pay for their arms. In exchange, you hire and command them."
    "Allowing you a Faith Militant with only one layer of dupes. Do you take us for fools, septon?" Joanna Rosby has been silent until now, but she asks this question with a sickly sweet smile. Waiting for an answer from Merribald.
    Acutely aware of the Rosby sworn swords nearby, Septon Merribald's reply is conciliatory and polite, "Merely suggesting an alternative, my lady. Perhaps you and your allies can aid in the selection process, to ensure no chance of problems? We can pay for the arms, and you can command them. Does that not sound fine?"

    Boggs' grunt of assent seems to indicate that it is, but Amory Brune's reply is the one that has Joanna Rosby nodding along with it. "I believe we must confer with our allies and our vassals, septon. Another meeting here in the Landing, later on? My reply can reach you or your men in a week anyways."
    The septon nods serenely, elation bubbling up inside that he does not show at all.

    <---->​

    On the other side of the Landing, near Visenya's Hill there is another meeting, this one of more official tone. The Guild of the Alchemists lies at the base of the hill while the Sept of Remembrance lies atop it, salvation and hellfire in one place.
    It is to the hellfire merchants that an agent of the crown goes first. "Master Renard, the Hand requests that you attend him tomorrow for a demonstration."
    The old pyromancer nods, simply asking "Where, and when? Must I bring any of my creations?"
    "Indeed. The Hand wishes to see the wildfire in action, and will meet you on the fields near the Red Keep. There is ample space, and his lordship requests haste."
    A bow from the pyromancer to the white-armored knight, and they part ways, Renard moving to the entrance of the Alchemists' Guild. Its dark stone and carved flames make it seem like a demons' den, and for once Renard is grateful for the superstition that prevents most people from moving inside the guild.

    A room within the guildhall contains two master pyromancers, Renard as guild chief and four casks of wildfire. The guildmaster is unsure which is the most unstable.
    Speaking to the masked pyromancers, he begins with the good news before moving on, "My friends and allies in the craft, we have good tidings. The Hand has asked for a meeting, and asked for wildfire."
    A nod from the pyromancer on Renard's right - Donnel, his name is - speaks with a reedy voice from under a cowl. "Indeed. This war with the Dornish will need better siege weapons, after all one cannot simply sit before the walls while one's water runs out. That means wildfire, naphtha, and purified oils for the ships' siphons. I and Mycah have prepared four casks for you to move to the keep tomorrow."
    The second pyromancer, Mycah, takes over. The cowl covers his features, but Renard knows that jowly face and deep, resonant voice. "Yet the Substance is unstable and difficult to prepare. We have not the labor, guildmaster. Not for a war."
    "Wildfire is what it is usually called, and the name substance reeks of hubris, Mycah." After that barb, Renard continues in a more polite tone. "Labor can be come by once royal gold and favor line our pockets. Our main aim now is influence, my friends. We have been marginalized by the septons and the maesters. They think themselves the guardians of knowledge, and of us as trespassers.This is our chance to prove them wrong."

    At that last sentence, Donnel stirs himself, objections on his lips. "Our creations do not kill cleanly, to give tales of martial prowess. Our creations, most of all the Substance, burn men alive. They kill by fire and heat and suffocation. That is not glorious, guildmaster. The sheep will call it atrocity and witchcraft at the urging of the Faith and the maesters."
    "I agree. We had best provide a little of the Substance to the Hand for his campaign, but impress upon him the danger of its use. We shall instead work towards the more traditional areas - napththa adn fire-siphons for the ships rather than more Substance." Mycah agrees, and the guildmaster is outvoted two to one.
    Renard can enforce his scheme, but in the face of resistance from the two most senior pyromancers of the order, it is unlikely to get far. In the interest of his political capital, he assents to Mycah's plan.
    <----->​

    The knives are fast, the broadswords long. The mail parts like butter, and the man's arm is neatly sheared off. Mance Hill stands above a drunken sellsword with his own blade in hand, their lethal fight in the alleys attracting little attention in Flea Bottom.
    Mance quickly strips the sellsword's body of mail and weapons, finding nothing much beyond a few knives, the sword he holds and a rusty mail shirt. The body itself goes into the alleyway, for the dogs and rats in the night.

    Mance Hill is eighteen years old, and killed his first man at fourteen. He's squat, scarred and pocked from pox - the only good point about him is his strength. If there's once thing he learned in the worst slum in King's Landing, it's that death and violence are things the rich will pay for. As such, he puts on the mail, sheathes the blades and makes his way to the Sept of Remembrance. After all, the septons spoke of a crusade, and where better than Dorne, land of loose women and good wine?

    The Sept of Remembrance rises from the top of Visenya's Hill, its dome of shining black stone like a beetle's carapace. The septons and the acolytes come and go from this place in droves, the center of the Faith in the crownlands. But for the first time since Maegor Targaryen outlawed the Faith Militant, there are knights and sellswords here again. All to listen to Septon Jarden, the one who calls himself the Cleanser.
    "..I tell you, my brothers, we face nothing less than the Hells made flesh. They live in the firepits of the Dornish desert, they make deals with the slavers, and they have murdered out king by treachery! I say to you all, just is the man who kills a Rhoynar heretic, and glorious is the war to come. My brothers, the heavens await the man to raise his blade, and..." Mance pays little attention to the famed septon, watching the others in the crowd instead.

    There are knights here, in clean gray plate and bright tabards, blades and other weapons at their sides. There are pious smallfolk, men who have hammered their plowshares into swords at the behest of their gods. There are sellswords, men who in the main watch the septon like hawks, waiting for an opportunity to come.
    Yet most of them seem to have a genuine faith. Mance wants no part of a horde of fanatics, but if that gets him out of Flea Bottom so be it.
    The septon finishes his speech to the cheers and chants of the crowd, howls for Dornish blood and Dornish death filling the air from the lungs of those who may well die. A man in white armor and white robes climbs the septons's perch of crates, his face scarred and forbidding. "I am Ser Robar Talltree, and I will command the first hundred of you until you can find a contracted commander among the nobility. Move to the fields past the River Gate, and we will test your mettle." The device the knight wears is a simple white seven-pointed star, his sigil only present on his shield. Mance may be illiterate, but there are many who know why the Faith can't hire soldiers, and this skirts that law rather closely.

    The would-be crusaders make their disorganized way through the city to the River Gate, led by the knights on horseback. They're hemmed in on their march by goldcloaks and Targaryen guardsmen, clearly the Hand does not want any mischief from the Faith in King's Landing.
    The march through the capital to the southern gate puts Mance near a man-at-arms, his sigil of a rabbit marked on his shield. The armored man stays silent the bulk of the march, and the group of smallfolk on the other side of Mance sneak glances at the bloodied man from Flea Bottom marching next to the armored soldier, occasionally laughing as they do.
    "Desist, boy. They'll learn soon that war is far more than simply joining up and killing people. You've killed, or so it seems to me. You ought to know better." The man-at-arms looks at Mance, visor raised as he walks. "They'll learn, and so will you, This isn't like killing old men and boys, or marching behind a cow's arse, this is war." Mance bristles, but the jibe at the peasants is too good to pass up, and he smiles as he marches now, the smallfolk glaring at the soldier.

    The land past the River Gate is some of the richest farmland in the kingdoms, watered by the Blackwater and near to the city and its money and markets. It's a place with dense farmland, and little space for a hundred men to park themselves, so Mance winds up camped on a village green while Ser Robar moves among the men, finding out how many came.
    There are men approaching, and the man-at-arms - Jonothor, he calls himself - identifies them as belonging to Rosby. Odd.

    The first contracted warriors of the faith have mobilized, and the septons' gambit has not gone unnoticed. Not at all.
    <----->
    "So you're saying that because of the state of the crownlands, my vassals have allowed the Faith to preach a crusade. They then enlisted the men who showed up, mostly sellswords and men-at-arms, and are now gathering them near King's Landing. Why the Faith, though? Why not simply send gold, and allow me to pay my contracted companies?" Viserys Targaryen is clearly furious, his voice a near-snarl as he describes what Lord Darklyn has just told him.
    The Master of Whisperers clears his throat and continues, "My lord Hand, this is simply a small force. A few hundred at most. As far as the Faith is concerned, I believe Lady Joanna assented to their aid in order to get men more reliable than most sellswords. It is only Rosby that sends these men out, as far as I know."
    "Find out, then. I will not have another Faith Militant. Not now." Viserys paces almost feverishly, issuing orders as he does. "Is there any way we can...chastise...the Faith? Perhaps a small reminder of why they bent the knee?"
    "I am afraid not, my lord. They claim that their preaching is merely sending men to war, not gathering forces of their own. There are no septons or members of the Holy Hundred among these crusaders, and Lady Rosby has hired them on. Hitting the Faith now may well cause a civil war." At Viserys' sour expression, the spymaster hurriedly finishes, "We can still punish the septons of the crownlands, who began all this. But the bird has flown, milord Hand. We cannot stop the wayside priests and the fanatics."

    "Bring the hammer down anyways, Darklyn. I want the septons involved dealt with, and with minimal fuss. Along with that, I believe we ought to give the Most Devout in the city a proper escort. After all, the rioting from all this is dangerous." A small smile is on the Hand's face, mirrored by Lord Darklyn.
    "The goldcloaks then, my lord Hand? That way we can still claim it is concern over the unrest, and give them a good escort to the Roseroad."

    "Arrange it, Darklyn. And ensure that Lady Rosby gets a reminder of why her scheme is bad. Perhaps a whisper in the right ears, I believe Boggs is in the capital now, is he not?" The Master of Whisperers bows on hearing the Hand's final orders, and mvoes out of the room, Viserys staring at the map of Dorne on the small council table as he does.

    A finger traces a path from the Arbor to the Torrentine, stabbing on the pale icon of Starfall like a bolt from above.
     
  10. Threadmarks: 3.
    molemole

    molemole Versed in the lewd.

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    The Water Gardens, Sunspear.

    162AC

    Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken run the words on the gateway arch, and unbowed indeed are the men-at-arms guarding them. Inside the gate, and within the palace of the Martells there is a far different situation.

    The Prince of Dorne, Maron Martell lies in the water, his leg swollen and infected from an old wound reopened. It seems apt, he thinks, given that the old war has reopened as well. The voice of the once-defiant and charismatic prince is now tired and hoarse as he speaks. "So the honorable Lord Yronwood has failed to deal with Wyl once again? This after the Young Dragon fought his way through the Boneway, and took Sunspear? This after the castles of the Bloodroyal were razed? Is the man mad?"


    Mariah Martell is his daughter, and the only other one in the room. She's also looking every bit as furious and worried as her father, yet her response is one of conciliation. "Mors Yronwood cannot afford to try to rein in Wyl. Castle Wyl survived the war, as did most of their wealth. The Bloodroyal on the other hand saw most of his silver mines flooded in the name of resistance, his castles razed and his men dead. He can't and won't risk a civil war in the Boneway. Not now."



    "Yet Wyl continues to provoke the Targaryens even after that disaster with the king. We need to act, daughter. Else later there will not be a Dorne."

    "You gave Deziel Wyl permission to keep the Kingsguard captain as a prisoner. This after his brother was killed by the man, knowing the reputation of House Wyl. You agreed to keep him there for Baelor to retrieve after the treaty was signed. You bear responsibility as well, and reparations will have to be made. We cannot win this war." Mariah Martell's eyes are cold as she looks at her father, and Maron realizes as he looks back that he hasn't been her father since the war. Since she pushed for peace and he for resistance.

    "Perhaps. What to do, though? Give them Wyl as a token of support? We cannot do that without calling the banners of the sand lords, and that itself is a sign of aggression. Do I go as a peace offering, alone to King's Landing?" He's joking at that last statement, but his daughter seizes onto that, far more quickly than he'd like.

    "You could. Prostrate yourself before the septons, say that you've come to atone for the sins of a bannerman that you trusted, all that. Go as a token of peace the way Baelor did and you may be listened to, but send a lesser envoy and there will be no talks. Wyl killed the Hand's only son by his dead wife, and the king lies incapable. And there are rumors of fanatical septons preaching a crusade." She's almost pleading at the end of that, as though she wants him to die in King's Landing. Well, fuck that - Maron will not go.



    "I was Maron Martell, the Unbowed. I went into the desert when they took the Sandship, and I was behind the assassination of Lyonel Tyrell. If I go to King's Landing and bend the knee - leave asking for forgiveness - Dorne will rise anyways. If I go after killing so, so many in this resistance, House Martell dies a quick death at the hands of our bannermen. Speak to our vassals before makigna move like this, daughter." Forceful for the first time in this conversation, it is clear that Mariah has crossed a line. Still. she does not let up.

    "We will then die a death at the hands of the Targaryens. Houses Baratheon, Tyrell and Targaryen came through the Boneway and the Pass last time. What happens when the Lannisters, Tullys, Starks and Arryns raise their banners as well? What happens when the Faith in Oldtown preaches a crusade to avenge the best bet they had for royal influence in generations?"

    She pauses a tad dramatically before continuing, "We die. We die in droves, you know as well as I that Dorne can barely raise fifteen thousand spears and the gods alone know how many the rest of Westeros will bring."



    "Fifteen thousand spears alone, Mariah. We have word from Lys and Tyrosh of possible aid, and from Myr of loans for Essosi sellsword companies. We cannot match their numbers, but we can lure them into the desert and let them die." Maron delivers that last line with relish, watching as his daughter looks vaguely stunned.
    Unfortunately, she's stunned at what she takes for his idiocy - not the planning that he's lavished on a possible war. "Father. You mean make alliance with the Three Daughters to fight off the Targaryens, and you give slavers a foothold in Dorne. The same Valyrian slavers that Nymeria fled from, that our house words are in defiance of. You mean to accept loans from the Rogare Bank and the Archon of Tyrosh - that will sell out our kingdom in a generation. Please. Don't do this. Please."

    Throughout this audience, his daughter has advocated the humiliation of House Martell, she has insulted him and ridiculed the work he has done. Maron Martell has had enough, and his daughter leaves near in tears.



    In time, he hopes she will realize that what he did was necessary for the freedom of Dorne, and for the honor of the Martells.

    All the same, perhaps it is best to send an envoy to the Targaryens, and make an offer of reconciliation.



    <----->



    Lord Allar Jordayne stands before Maron Martell, looking distinctly nervous as he watches the prince speak. House Jordayne had acted in collaboration with the erstwhile steward of Dorne, Lyonel Tyrell before the resistance assassinated him - and the Martells still regard that as a betrayal, not an honorable surrender.

    The throne room of the Sandship is as bare as ever, the looted treasures of the Martells not replaced, and the room wooden-walled, its inhabitants with the same wooden smiles.

    "Lord Allar, you have been called before Nymeria's Seat to serve the interests of the kingdom. You are to go forth to King's Landing, the seat of the Targaryen kings, and serve as an emissary of peace between the kingdoms of Dorne and the six in the north..."

    As the herald drones on, Allar knows this is the revenge of the Martells on his house. He will not see his wife again, nor Nymeria and Arianne, his daughters. He will die at the hands of a Valyrian in the north, and fail in his assigned 'mission' to the crown.

    He does not like that very much.



    "Your Grace. May I ask one thing?" Interrupting the herald is just not done among the Dornish aristocracy, but Allar Jordayne has no fucks left to give. At this point all he wants to know is how serious the Prince of Dorne is at making peace with the Targaryens.

    Maron on the other hand simply waves a hand and says speak, no expression at all on his face.

    "Your Grace, I am overjoyed to accept this position, but as far as negotiations go I would like to know what terms may be acceptable to Dorne. In rough only, of course, I would not wish to know too much of sensitive matters of state." He's sweating, a show of weakness before the sharks of the Dornish court, but at this point it doesn't matter anymore.



    The Prince on the throne does not look remotely placated by the fawning tone of the question, but does not dismiss him out of hand either. For one wild moment, Allar Jordayne entertains thoughts of peace, of allowing his daughters to grow up in a kingdom unscarred by endless war.

    It is not to be. The answer crushes that hope like ants under a boot, "Lord Jordayne. Your question is reasonable, and here is your answer. You are authorized to allow an indemnity from Dorne of up to one hundred thousand dragons, paid over twenty years. You are authorized to allow Targaryen ships and those of their vassals toll-free passage through all Dornish ports and waters for ten years. You are authorized to give them hostages, among them my daughter. But note this, my lord. There will be no concessions of land and no bending the knee. Not after sixty thousand Dornishmen died in the occupation." Maron Martell's tone is iron-hard and unyielding - on this matter he is indeed unbowed.



    Allar bows and leaves the throne room, feeling faintly sick at the possible war to come.



    <---->



    King's Landing

    162AC



    "What the fuck were you thinking, Joanna, letting the Faith arm and recruit men in King's Landing, then hiring them into Rosby? I have Darklyn telling me in no uncertain terms that the Hand wants to use Maegor's laws and hang the lot of you. Honestly, why did you do it, before we could all meet and decide?" Gyles Boggs watches Lady Rosby warily, acting so impulsively is out of character for her - the gods alone know how she'll respond to this.



    "I did what I had to do, Gyles. My husband and son will be avenged by the blades of these free companies, and my men will not suffer anymore. An easy solution, and by Maegor's laws sellsword companies do not fall under the Faith. Not if I'm paying them." She looks oddly blank as she feeds him an obviously scripted answer, but the venom in her voice as she talks about her husband and son is genuine.

    Gyles doesn't know how the septons got their claws into her, and he's not about to care now, not with the hammer of the Hand above his head.



    "Not technically, but if the Hand calls you before the council and court to confess your supposed crimes, then technically may get you a quick rather than slow death. That's all. You have no great knights in your service, to win a trial by combat with the Kingsguard. Daeron Waters will carve through your men like a knife through butter - do you want that, Joanna? After all that about your men not suffering?" Gyles is alternately forceful and wheedling, trying to egt some kind of reaction out of his friend. Little comes.



    "I already said, Gyles, that I wanted revenge. I agree, hiring the so-called free companies was not the best of decisions, but I had little choice for troops. I had cash, but no possible men-at-arms, so I turned to Septon Merribald's solution. My apologies for not clearing it past you and Brune, but it was an impulse decision." She's smiling at him apologetically, holding the wineglass in one pale hand far too tightly. Nervousness again, and Boggs smells a fuckup somewhere.



    "Then you have my condolences, Joanna. Whatever you want me to tell Davion when he comes to the seat, let me know, for the Hand will give you little chance for speeches." Rough sympathy and a warning of things to come - Gyles has lost hope in direct information, and it is time for other means.

    Bidding Joanna farewell, Gyles leaves her rooms in the Red Keep and moves to the Small Council chambers, reporting to the Hand as asked. If anyone had cared to find out, they would see Gyles Boggs the Warden of the Dragon Gate reporting to the Hand of the King. Nothing more. Of course, whoever was pulling Joanna Rosby's strings would see otherwise, and rightfully so. Better to scare them and see who flew - or so Lord Darklyn had said.



    Boggs moves into the small room and kneels before the Hand's chair, until a rather irritable Rise, Boggs, I don't have time for all that gets him back on his feet. Viserys Targaryen looks exhausted, dark bags under lilac eyes, and every movement speaking of tiredness. If Bogsg gave a shit, he'd say he was worried. As it is, there are other things to handle. "My lord Hand, I've warned Lady Rosby as ordered."

    "And?" A bite there, the Hand is irritable it seems.

    "She appears to be in someone's pay or someone has blackmail on her. Joanna isn't readily bribable, not by one not on the throne, Rosby's too rich for that. My instinct is blackmail."

    "Then what do we do about it, and who do you think did it, Boggs?" Again, impatient for the point. Sweating a little, Gyles continues in a hasty voice, words tumbling out of nervous lips. "I don't know who did it, and with Lord Darklyn busy I would take his suggestion of shaking the tree and seeing what falls out, my lord. As to Joanna, I would suggest a guard on her chambers in case of someone trying to replace her."

    "Replace. Excellent choice of words, Boggs, I must commend you. In any case, see to it. Use my guardsmen, not the Keep garrison. Make it look more, ah, personal. In the meantime, see who you can contact for raising a free company. If there is any organization in the Faith that is doing this, I'm sending in the goldcloaks and calling in the Tyrells."



    "If not, my lord. What are my orders?"



    "You orders are to feed the names to Darklyn, get some knives working. If the Faith wants their blades back, I'll feed them blades point-first."

    A bit unsettled by the bloodlust in the Targaryen's voice, Boggs bows again and leaves, mind once more on what to do about this. After all, he was there with Merribald as well - as was Joanna.



    <----->



    The seaport of King's Landing is the largest in the Kingdoms, handling everything from fish and food for the people to luxuries for the numerous nobles in the city. There are several massive harbors, and it is in the outermost that a cog docks, all in black and red, flying a Targaryen banner. It is odd for a royal ship to take a merchant dock, and even more so for a knight of the Kingsguard to greet a merchant ship.

    Yet there it is, tall and sea-worn, with Ser Jonos Bracken and a troop of goldcloaks waiting to escort the passengers.



    The passenger turns out to be a mousy man in a black and red doublet, followed by a group of children shepherded by a stout woman. A family, then but not Targaryens. Any observer would be even more intrigued when the family is escorted from the docks to the Red Keep directly, the knight courteously pointing out the sights of the Landing as they ride.

    The man is separated from his presumably-wife-and-children, taken to the throne room to appear before the Hand of the King. In a simple wooden chair before the throne sits the Hand, the guardsmen watching like hawks as the man approaches. The courtiers watch like sharks, scenting blood in the air.



    The mousy man with silver hair kneels before the Hand, and speaks in a surprisingly deep voice, "My lord Hand Viserys Targaryen. I greet you in the name of the family Rogare of Lys, and I stand before you your goodbrother Allyrio Rogare, as token of good faith between Lys and the Seven Kingdoms."

    The Hand barely reacts, instead responding with appropriate ceremonial, "Be welcome, Allyrio of Lys. We welcome you as an ambassador from the magisters of the city of the Weeping Lady, and we advise caution in your movements. With the Dornish actions, things are tense of late."

    A blunt warning and an accreditation. The Lysene rises fluidly, the tone of his reply almost obsequious. "My thanks to the Hand of the King, and my deepest well-wishes to the King on the Iron Throne, in the name of the magisters of Lys and the Weeping Lady.



    "The Iron Throne thanks the people of Lys, and hopes that the island remains prosperous." Anodyne pleasantries are exchanged, and the envoy moves aside to allow the next audience to proceed. Allyrio barely pays attention to it, something about bracken in a wood somewhere, but the Hand seems wonderfully agitated on hearing it.

    The throneroom is spartan, undoubtably reflecting the tastes of the king, the dragon skulls and rich hangings removed in favor of icons if the Seven.

    In time, the audiences end and Allyrio Rogare is summoned to attend the Hand his private chambers, escorted by an armored knight. For his own safety, no doubt.



    The Hand's room is furnished comfortably, the used appearance of the furniture concealing the fact that the materials and crafting are exquisite. Similarly the hangings on the walls are of mundane topics yet well-spun and beautifully dyed. The Hand is a man of taste, then - not much has changed.

    "Goodbrother. You failed to tell me that you were the one sent from Lys, what happened in the city?" A cautiously friendly tone from Viserys, probing for something. What, though, was the question here.

    "My lord Hand, Lys remains the richest port in the Narrow Sea, and our fleets as mighty as ever. Little else occurs, but we have heard word from the Kingdoms that there are rumors of Lyseni aiding the Dornish. I am here to act as reassurance -"

    Viserys raises a hand and glares at him, cutting him off in midsentence. "Enough. You spoke the same in court, as expected. I ask that here, before me, you tell the truth. For Larra's memory, if the threats from the Iron Throne do not work."



    Fury is the first reaction of mousy little Allyrio Rogare. The mouse almost bites the dragon, until he reins himself in and replies in an icy tone, lilac eyes glinting with anger. "For my sister's memory, you say. For the sister you used and abandoned, for the sister of mine that died of a broken heart in this damned city, you ask that I give you whatever you wish, goodbrother?



    For once in the meeting, Viserys Targaryen is not in control. The Lysene continues, almost spitting in fury as he speaks."You took my sister, heiress to the Rogare family, and you made her little more than a broodmare in this damned city. Do you even know what happened after her bones came home? After the pride of the greatest magister family in Lys came home in a casket, after sending no word from her new home for years?"

    A reply isn't necessary at this point, but one is given. "Your family lost face in the Game. Power means little without prestige, and it was felt that the barbarian had put one over you. The head of the clan is no longer from your branch of the family, and the barbarians are now an enemy rather than an irritant." The Hand's tone is bitter as he says this, watching the Stormlander wine in his cup rather than the eyes of his goodbrother.



    A slow nod, hot anger gone in favor of cold hate. "Indeed, my lord Hand. As her brother and the one who stood as her guarantor in the marriage, I have been sent as a token of goodwill. Lys will not aid the Seven Kingdoms in this war, and neither will we involve ourselves directly against you. Trade is permitted among all parties, and the fleet has been expanded to guarantee that."



    "You mean that the Dornish have a place to build war galleys and galleasses in safety, and their gold is deposited in your banks already. Do not fuck around, boy, else I show you why my house words are fire and blood." It is the Targaryen's turn for anger, this one born of frustration. He watches Allyrios' carefully blank expression before continuing, "Dorne also likely has hired sellsword companies through Lys. In exchange for port privileges and tariff waivers, perhaps? It matters little, save that your house have thrown their weight behind the enemy here."



    "As I said, milord Hand, you are welcome to take this envoy's head in recompense for the slights you have suffered." A low bow, as a servant might give to a master accompanies the statement. Belying that is Allyrio's ironic tone, and the context of the meeting. Were this a saner time, Viserys may well have appreciated such defiance.

    Now, though, it is merely irritating.

    "No point in having the head of someone the Rogare main branch has exiled already." The Hand rises, callign for the knight who brought him here. "Ser Alyn! Take the Lysene ambassador to his chambers, and do let him know that Lord Darklyn wishes for information on Lys."

    The envoy leaves, and with him Viserys' hopes for a short, victorious war. After all, Lys will not act without Tyrosh and Myr's support, else either they or Volantis move in to take advantage.



    <------>





    One month from the Lysene ambassador's arrival, and already things have changed. The Small Council chambers are full once again, Lords Tarth and Darklyn having arrived to report, the Grand Maester and the Lord Commander both in attendance as well. The Master of Ships, Aeron Greyjoy is not in attendance, having moved to Driftmark to oversee the shipyards.

    The map in the center of the table now boasts one major change - a small silver galley near Lys.

    "My lords, it appears that the rumors of Lysene involvement are true. We have Dornish construction in the yards below the Tear Tower, and the Company of the Cat has been hired with Lysene silver."

    Duncan Darklyn pauses, looking at the faces of each of the councillors, before continuing. "Dorne has not yet called in the banners, and there is word that a peace mission comes, led by Allar Jordayne. All the same, there are some three thousand sellswords encamped near the Tor, and forty galleys building in Lys. The Prince prepares for war, and we must move soon."



    "My thanks, Lord Darklyn. You spoke to Allyrio Rogare, I assume?" The Master of Whisperers nods in response to the Hand's query, and at his nod Viserys continues. "We then face perhaps twenty thousand Dornish instead of fifteen. We have the ten thousand of the crownlands, another five from the Iron Isles and twenty along the Dornish Marches. Lord Commander, how go the contracted companies?"
    A bow from the giant in white plate, and a basso rumble. "My lord Hand, we have hired six bands of freedmen from the southern crownlands and the Stormlands in the last month. Archers, pike and light foot unfortunately, not one rider among them. The hedge knights make their way to the conflicts in the south, not the massing near the capital.

    We have in total one and a half thousand archers, half of them Stormlander longbows. We have a further two thousand pikes, peasants and ruffians who need training. More men trickle in, but again there are those who hire on to your vassals or go south for the Faith."

    Daeron Waters has done is best, and his best is not enough.



    "We have the numbers, my lords. But we have not the men. The levies and the free companies are yet green and unseasoned - we need time. I have four hundred ships split between the Arbor, the Isles and Driftmark. In three months that will be six hundred, and any Dornish fleet will burn. give me time."

    At the Hand's entreaty, the spymaster replies uncertainly. "Assassination will not slow things, not now. There is no back we can stick a knife in and delay things, responsibility is too diffuse there. On the other hand, we have not the agents in Lys to sabotage the yards. Not in face of the guardsmen there -"

    Another interruption from Viserys, now. "Yet there is one obvious weakness."

    "My lord?"
    "The wells. The Essosi are not of Dorne, they do not know the oases and the watering holes, the same ones we paid in blood to find. Poison their water supplies and their march to the Tor is slowed. Pollute the wells in the Tor, hire sellsail from the Stepstones, get me time."



    "My lord Hand, that is not a course of action consistent with the honor of House Targaryen." The Grand Maester looks almost disappointed, his voice sad as he speaks. "It will blacken the name of the throne for an age, my lord. Please, think on what you do."



    "I have, Grand Maester. I find that the Dornish took my son from me, killed the king while on a mission of peace, and this is not even the first time that this has happened. It is time to reply by the same means they did, and show them why many do not do this." Cold and sharp, like the steel of a northerner is the Hand's voice, and his eyes shine all too brightly as he speaks.

    In the face of the fury of the crown, Grand Maester Munkun backs down. "I beg your pardon, my lord. I have made the objections as per my duty, and the remainder is in your hands."



    Munkun's words are unheeded in the wake of the news that Ser Alyn Hunter brings, "My lords, your pardon, but word has come from the Dornish Marches. Blackhaven is under siege."
     
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    molemole

    molemole Versed in the lewd.

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    Blackhaven, the Dornish Marches
    162AC


    Unlike the earlier assault on Longcroft, Blackhaven Castle is a massive structure, walls fully one and a half times as high, and a deep ditch before them. It sits on a hill, watching the Dornish siege engineers with lofty disdain.
    The besiegers' camp flies the banners of Wyl, Vulture's Roost, Skyreach, and the smaller battle flags of the sellswords. Perhaps eight thousand men face the bare two thousand inside Blackhaven, yet numbers do little in the face of the walls.

    On the walls is Lord Edric Dondarrion, last male of his house. Last of the border lords to have fought beside Daeron Targaryen, and first atop the walls of Yronwood Castle in the escalade. All that left him with was a limp and a thirst for Dornish wine.
    "Lad, this is what you fight for. For the hope that after this, you'll be alive and your family unharmed. You see that?" He points with one armored gauntlet at the trebuchets in the besiegers' camp, the archer beside him nodding fearfully. "Aye, those'll break the walls given time, these aren't the walls of Storm's End or the Rock. But I'll tell you one thing, boy. They're naught but wood and rope - and both burn" A grin at the archer, and he moves on. Leaving a little more hope where he walked.

    The walls are sparsely manned, the Dornish not moving near them, and the stormlanders not having the men to mount a sally. As far as Lord Edric is concerned, that's just more time for the men to prepare for a night attack. There are siege tunnels out past the moat, old ones. They may not reach to the enemy camp, but they'll go far enough.
    The day is full of preparation, finding things like four of the forty horses unfit to ride, finding that there are fewer fit knights willing to sally, and finding that Ser Ilyn Hawksbane wants to come with the attack force. Edric has objections to that, "Ilyn, you old bastard you're almost one and a half times my age. I need someone to hold the fortress for the kingdoms, and you're it."
    The old knight straightens up from adjusting his bridle, glaring back at the lord of Blackhaven. "I've held this castle for more than twenty years, milord. I was there with you on the walls at Yronwood, and I cut down that bastard Dayne, remember? I'm owed, Edric. I want one last ride, here."
    Dondarrion softens a little, but there is no yielding here. Not in this situation. "You want to hurl yourself into what is likely a death ride and leave my daughter to handle this place alone? You're the best commander here bar me, and I need you should I not return."

    A pause from the saddle adjustment, and Ilyn Hawksbane's scarred face glares into Edric Dondarrion as though wanting to skewer him through sight alone. "You want me to stay yet you to go? I can go in your place, because once Lord Dondarrion is dead the gods alone know how the men's spirits may be. You've kept the levies' spirits high in the last two weeks, let me go."
    "Will the men follow you? Half the hedge-knights here are pricklier than Valemen."
    "Aye, they will. Or I deal with them. I command them in your name, and to disobey is to defy you in a siege. They know the stakes, most of 'em - they saw the occupation, all of us did."
    A nod from Edric Dondarrion, and a compromise. "Done, then. I'll lead the diversionary force, and you hit the trebuchets. No matter what happens..."
    "...We cannot let them finish. I know, Edric."
    A small smile, and a clasp of hands between friends who may not see one another again. "Is there anything you wish to say to your brother, Ilyn? One last time? We ride in three hours."
    "No. Not after Skyreach. Fuck, no. I have no family, not after that shit."
    They part ways in sorrow, the lord moving to the barracks to roust out the few knights who remain. The knight moves to the courtyard, searching for his lieutenants.


    At nightfall, the cavalry form up in the courtyard of the castle, all thirty-six of them. Thirty-six knights to face eight thousand, most would say madness. Not Edric Dondarrion, and not the five hundred foot who will follow him out the gates.
    "Men of the Kingdoms, today we go to teach to Dornish dogs a lesson! They've spread their camp thin around the castle, and today we punch a hole! Men of the Kingdoms, men of Blackhaven, today we march!" Not very inspiring, but it gets a ragged cheer from the men as the infantry move out the gates. Three hundred pike and the remainder archers and swordsmen - not very numerous, at all.

    The plan, such as it is, is very simple. Blackhaven is on a hilltop overlooking the main pass into the Boneway. The Dornish have surrounded the fortress, but thanks to the mountainsides nearby, their lines are thin as they cross the pass. The trebuchets are well behind the Dornish side of the siege lines, and well-defended.
    The solution is of course to evict those men. Sally out, hit the stormlands side of the castle, and pull Dornish reinforcements. Move to the enemy siege engines simultaneously, thirty-six knights on horseback and half again as many hedge knights on foot.
    A death ride, but one that may work.

    Five hundred Stormlander foot boil out of the gates facing the Kingdom side of the border, screaming obscenities and warcries as they cross a dead zone of more than four hundred paces. The Dornish camp in the meantime is scrambling to wake up and make ready, sentries looking at the approaching king's men like rabbits before a hunter.
    Three hundred armored pikemen hit the Dornish siege lines in perfect line, sweeping through stakes and trenches as they move. The sparse sentries are swept aside, and the picket-towers are occupied by Edric's longbowmen who further add to the chaos.

    "Back, back, one step at a time. Back, you whoresons, they're too damn close for spearwork! Back!" Ser Aron Fowler is in nominal command of this section of the camp - and now he leads perhaps sixty spearmen facing off against Edric Dondarrion's leading men-at-arms.
    "You, Davos, move!" Shouting at one of the centermen one minute, parrying a stormlander thrust and skewering the man in the next, time moves all too slowly for Aron Fowler as he walks along the line of Dornish spears, barely holding ground. His lieutenant, a younger member of the Fowler clan arrives soot-stained and injured, clutching his arm. "Ser Aron, the northerners have taken the watchtowers, they have archers there. We cannot move in on foot yet, the Essosi are taking too long."
    A snarl from Fowler as he thwacks the spearman in front of him, pushing him back into line. "We face their leading men, lad. These are Dondarrion's men-at-arms, not his pike and bowmen. Pull back your men, let the Essosi winkle out the fucking northern peasants."
    "Aye. Bring my men here?"
    "Indeed, where else? The fucking Water Gardens? Move, lad move." Flushing at the jibe, the younger Fowler retreats, running in his light leathers for the edge of the camp. It will take at least an half-our to pull his forces out, get the sellswords moving and hit the stormlanders here. Aron Fowler does not know if he has that long.

    Jon Fowler runs through the camp in soot-stained leather, his plate forgotten in a burning tent. The men are panicking, the levies of Skyreach unused to this kind of combat. Ducking a pikeman's thrust, he dances around the man's partner, stabs once and runs on. Clutching his arm, dodging enemy infantry, he reaches the Fowler guardsmen. They're embattled as well, retreating slowly from a pack of Stormlander pikemen, arrows flying into their ranks.
    "Milord Jon, orders from Ser Aron?" The commander is Gerold Mathers, a veteran of the occupation and one who's now bleeding from one scarred cheek, his helm askew. "We cannot hold here, milord."
    "Ah, yes, Gerold. Orders are to fall back and let the Essosi have this one. We move to reinforce Ser Aron, it appears they're going for the commander's pavilion." Sword drawn, Jon gestures to the flames in the camp center as he speaks.
    A nod from Gerold, and shouted commands to the men. They're in loose line, waiting for the pike rush that's to come when they hear this, and they simply move back to the more broken terrain of the tents and supplies.

    "Come on, lads. We move back, pull Ser Aron out of the fire and let the bleeding Essosi have this one. Slowly does it, like you'd do a virgin. Slowly." Barking orders, Gerold and Jon don't notice the bodkin shaft that hits old Gerold Mathers like a hammer, going through him helm into the brain.
    "Hold, hold damn you all, if you break old Gerold'll kill you all from the Hells." Jon is near panic at this point, operating on instinct as he kneels beside his mentor and teacher. The man is dead, no words or gestures from old Gerold Mathers, who was armsmaster for Skyreach for a decade. The line of Fowler armsmen hold, barely, as the stormlanders make on abortive push, and the following arrow barrage kills a few more.
    Jon pulls the men back, leaving Gerold Mathers, Franklyn Graves, Mellario Withers, and the gods alone know how many more dead. He'd cry if he had time, but at this point there isn't. Not now. Not when Aron's in the same damned situation.

    Unfortunately, the orderly retreat is hit by Edric Dondarrion and fifty stormlander pikemen in a wild charge, the pikes having regrouped after the last push.
    "Hold, men, just one last time." Jon is panicking now, desperately fending off a knight in black plate and moving back as he does. Duck, swing, block, pleasepleasegods, block, godsthathurts, he moves back slowly, all to aware of his enemy. Unfortunately, that means that the armsmen have no active commands.
    They don't break, though. These are veterans of the long Dornish war, fighting in groups like this is second nature. The lack of command simply means that they're forced back, the few men around Jon Fowler left behind as the main force is cut off.
    In the fighting, Jon trips. It's as far from a heroic death as he'd imagined, and as Edric Dondarrion rams more than a foot of castle-forged steel through him all Jon feels is disbelief.

    The Dornish northern camp is now in flames, and as Edric takes raises his visor for a gulp of air, he notes that his men's banners are moving back. It appears that enemy reinforcements have arrived. Smiling grimly, he raises a horn and blows, the mournful call indicating a slow retreat for the stormlanders. There will be yet more blood tonight, and the gods know that the defenders are ahead for now.
    House Wyl has sent a good many men, and Aron Fowler has seen that personally. "My thanks, Ser..?" The man who led the counterattack stands in Wylish colors, but little else is seen in the poor light.
    "Marence Sand, Ser Aron. You know the camp best, perhaps you should take command?" The suggestion is welcome, but the tone suggests it is not entirely in good faith. Nonetheless.."Ser Marence, my thanks. Take your men to anchor our left, we move to cut the stormlanders off from the castle." A nod and the bastard knight is off, shouting commands to his men. Fowler turns his attention to the advance, and curses as he realizes that the enemy have pulled back beyond the torchlight, there will be a bloody toll from here.
    <------>​
    Ser Ilyn Hawksbane has led men for more than two decades. It was House Dondarrion that raised a butcher's boy to knighthood, and allowed that peasant to rise to glory. Now, it is time to repay that. Watching the infantry stream out of the northern gate, he slaps down the visor and calls to his men, "Right, lads. Now we move slowly to the camp, footmen in first. Horse are to move out as a reserve, hit them in the retreat. Bleed the bastards, and remember - get the trebuchets and you'll earn all the damned glory you want. Move!" The hedge knights and dismounted men-at-arms move out, sackcloth around hobnailed boots and hauberks in sacks for later. The knights will follow only afterwards, and it will not be Ser Ilyn riding.

    He grins as he moves up to lead of the infiltrator column, the enemy camp is in chaos as men ride out to face the northern sally, the sentries not paying attention to the southern gates. They slip past the sentries, a crossbow bolt buying passage from a particularly alert spearman. The Dornishman mumbles something about a Meera as he dies, and nobody gives a damn.
    They don orange tabards and move as Wylish armsmen, nobody questioning a column of men heading north in camp. Nobody until Terence Wyl, moving out of the siege engineers' area.
    "You there, captain! What tidings from Ser Marence!" As the men turn at his hail, he sees brown leathers and kite shields. None of his men have kite shields. Fuck.
    "Alarm, alarm, they come for the artillery, move, you slugs!" He rushes back to the engineers, pushing a few guardsmen into the line as he does. It doesn't help much.
    The spearmen fold against the stormlander knights, and soon the engineers' camp near the trebuchets is put to the sword. The engines are in the process of being lit when the Dornish regroup, Stevron Wellander dying from a crossbow bolt giving Ilyn ample warning.
    "Time, boys. Pull together and push the damn engines over, let 'em climb past fire. I'll stay, rest of you run. Run." he stays, sword in hand and Wellander dead at his feet as the Dornishmen fail to cross a blazing trebuchet ruin in between them and the stormlanders.
    He thinks it fits, after all he always did like war a bit too much.

    The remaining infiltrators make it near the camp's edge as they are caught again, this time Ser Loras of Rainwood leading the reserve knights in a countercharge, spitting the Dornish as they pursue the tired infiltrators. Retreat will be damn close, thinks Ser Loras as he moves through a Dornish line and tries to take his men back.
    It will indeed be close, and not only for the riders.
    <---->
    "Word from the maester, my lord. Most of the men will live, but the wounds mean that vinegar runs low once more." A report from the pageboy as Edric Dondarrion sits in his solar, counting the cost. All but one trebuchet burned, and the enemy camp ravaged - but the loss of two hundred foot and twenty of his dismounted knights. The riders were dead to a man, Ser Loras running into that damned Essosi Alarik of Qohor after the second charge. Edric curses the Warrior as he reads the report, the cost perhaps all too great.

    My lord Hand,
    Blackhaven holds for the nonce, but for how longs we do not know.
    Send aid, for supplies wane.
    Edric Dondarrion, Lord of Blackhaven, Commander of the Dornish Marches.

    The raven flies to King's Landing, the second such missive. Only one raven remains, and the men are waning as well - one and a half months under siege and a costly sally pushing their limits. Edric Dondarrion hopes for aid, for the fall of Blackhaven means the loss of the Boneway passes - and Dornish raids into the Stormlander heartland.

    In the Dornish camp, trumpets blare and immaculate knights in plate ride in formation. The rich display is odd in siege lines, but it is an occasion, after all. The Lord of Wyl and the Northern Boneway, Deziel Wyl is here.
    "Terence, tell my why in all the gods' names you lost half a company of engineers and all the trebuchets? Do explain, please." Deziel is plump and jolly-looking, his tone friendly and open. His eyes on the other hand are furious, cold anger apparent to anyone who looks.
    Terence Wyl is quite honestly afraid. "My lord father, I had fortified the camp but they sallied into Fowler's. I moved to reinforce him-"
    "And they played you. I know Edric Dondarrion, and this is what he would do. We will discuss more in your tent, but I am assuming command for now." Cutting off Terence in midsentence, the lord rides onward, leaving his son staring at the sand in helpless frustration.
     
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