The Children Of Ice And Fire

VVSIGNOFTHECROSS

Chapter 006

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Lord Jon Arryn

King’s Landing was stifling, Jon had always heard tales of the stench of the city of dragons from both his father and grandfather and he had never thought that he would come to agree with their views on the city. Sure he had been pleased and honoured when King Jaehaerys had asked him to take up a place on the small council as master of laws and when King Aerys retained him for the position he had felt validated and appreciated. However, he had been in the city of vipers for eleven years now and he was beginning to tire of it all, the back biting and the winding path that most of the nobles and the council often took. He was a good player of the game but the way that it was being played now was going against his morals and his words, As High As Honour, the words meant more than just a motto to him, they were what he lived by, a code to keep him sane and mortal and what he was doing in King’s Landing was going against that and he could not stand that.

There was also the matter that he had no children from his own loins. Oh sure his nephew Elbert and cousin Denys were his heirs now, but he had no heirs from his own body and that deeply worried him. He had been married twice, first to Jeyne Royce a match his father had made for him in order to reward Lord Royce for his loyalty during the Blackfyre wars, and the second marriage had been to his cousin Rowena Arryn a match that Jon had done for love, he had truly loved Rowena, more so than he had ever loved Jeyne, and perhaps that love had been the cause of her death. His father’s niece, Rowena had grown up in Old Anchor with Uncle Norbert and his children and something about the change to the Eyrie had not agreed with her and she had fallen ill and had died of a fever four years ago, with no children for the marriage.

Jon, knew that he was getting on in years he had turned fifty just two moons ago, and he knew that soon enough he would be viewed as an unsuitable match for any lord’s daughter, and he did not want to end up like Walder Frey, that man was more of a crone and a hag than half the people at court. And so Jon had eased off on looking for wives for himself and instead had begun looking for potential brides for both Elbert and Denys, Elbert was but eleven years old and as such could wait for a while before Jon actively pursued brides for him, whereas Denys was at fifteen nearly a man grown, and though he was descended from a cousin of Jon’s more would need to be done to ensure his place in the succession was secure and that was why Jon had looked to Uncle Norbert’s granddaughter Alyssa and had suggested a betrothal, the idea had worked and now Denys and Alyssa were to wed in two years.

As part of the peace that had been signed under King Jaehaerys, it had been agreed that in time the lords of the south and the north would send their spare children to foster with houses in the other kingdoms, and though none of the other houses had actually followed through with it, House Stark of Moat Cailin, whose lord was Rickard Stark a smart and cunning man had sent his second born son Eddard to foster at the Eyrie, and Lord Steffon Baratheon the king’s own cousin had sent his own son and heir Robert to foster at the Eyrie as well. Jon had been there to receive the both of them, and had seen instantly that the two of them were the polar opposites of one another. Where Robert being the heir to the Stormlands was bold and brash, Eddard was a shy and quiet second son who often trailed Robert like a loyal companion, and Jon knew from what Nestor Royce had told him that the two were quickly becoming thick as thieves and were doing all kinds of mischief, the kind that Jon and his own friends had engaged in back when they were young. He was looking forward to returning to the Vale to take the two young boys and Elbert under his wing to train them and teach them how to be good honourable men.

Of course before he could do that there was the matter of the council and the remaining business he had to do before he left, he had already notified the king and the hand that he was resigning. The king had accepted his resignation with dignity, and had simply wished him well on whatever else he decided to embark on in the future. It had been the hand, young Tywin Lannister a cunning and sly man by all accounts who was ruthless when he wanted to be, who had actually sat down with Jon and asked him why he was leaving King’s Landing. Jon had been silent for a long moment as he debated over whether or not he should tell the hand the true reasons for his departure, after all it was no secret that the hand and the king were very close, but then again Jon had noticed a developing tension between the two and there were rumours abound that it was Tywin Lannister and not Aerys who did the ruling in Westeros, something that had not pleased the king. Eventually no matter how much the lie killed him to say, Jon had said. “I am not cut out for this game Tywin. I am an old man who no longer hungers for power or glory. This council and game is a thing for younger men. I shall return home and see to my charges.” That was only partially the truth, the full truth was that there were signs that he had picked up on as had Walder Frey a most unlikely ally, and these signs pointed to the fact that the king might be falling into a dark pit, the king had always been passionate and prone to bouts of anger or temper that could be quite frightening, but they had always passed by relatively quickly, nowadays they were taking longer and longer to pass by, and there was often a strange glint in his eyes once they did. Jon did not want to be in King’s Landing when the pin finally dropped. He wanted out and he wanted his people safe.

There was just one last thing he had to attend to in King’s Landing before he could return home. One last small council meeting, the king had come to him the day before and told him that he wanted his input on one last thing before he returned home, and so Jon had agreed to come. They were all present, the council of the king, hand Tywin Lannister Lord of the Rock and a ruthless man, master of coin and cunning Walder Frey a firm ally of Lannister, master of ships old Lord Maegon Velaryon loyal to the throne alone, master of whispers Lord Roose Bolton a newbie to the council and as of yet untested, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Gerold Hightower and finally Grand Maester Pycelle. The king was present for today’s meeting and once he had sat down and bid them all to sit down he spoke. “This is Lord Arryn’s last council meeting with us before he returns home; let us make it a informative one. Pycelle what news is there from the citadel?”

The Grand Maester was silent and then said. “They say that this summer shall last a long time Your Grace, and that the terrain near the border with Dorne is nearly as good as can be at this time of year.”

Jon sees the king nod and then hears him ask. “Lord Bolton what news do we have from our sources in Dorne? How have the Yronwoods reacted to the revelation that there is a snake in their midst?”

Lord Bolton speaks so softly Jon and the other council members have to strain to hear him. “Yronwood has sent his lapdog to go and investigate into the matter, Gyles Stark has gone on a mission to discover who it is that is leaking their secrets, but he is doing so with the subtlety of a boar charging through the woods. Blackmont remains convinced that they do not know it is him who is leaking the information and has been laying false trails for Stark to follow that will lead him to Saeron Qorgyle and will lead to a civil war in Dorne.”

“And you are sure of this Lord Bolton?” Tywin Lannister asks. “Because the last time there was dissent in Dorne it was cut off before it could fully grow and develop due to someone ratting us out on this end. We do not want that to happen again if we want to be successful this time. There will be a civil war in Drone that we shall be the heroes of you are convinced of that?”

Bolton is silent for a moment and the he says. “I am very sure my lord hand. Dorne is reaching boiling point. Berros Yronwood is an old man who will die soon, his son Edgar is a hot head who has no mind for politics and wants a war as badly as his companions do. Soon enough we shall have war and we shall emerge triumphant. Dorne is a divided land, and the Martells have the answer to their woes.”

“Yes yes that is all well and good,” the king says. “Dorne will be burning and in the hands of the Martells before the year is out if all goes to plan. Now what other news is there? What news from the north?”

Lord Bolton is silent once more and then says. “Well Your Grace, as you know Daemon Stark called his banners and marched north of the wall to bring the free folk to heel two years ago. The Golden Company joined him in his little adventure, and so far they have managed to bring everything from Whitetree village, the haunted forest, and Craster’s keep and the Fist of the First men under their control. The wildlings in those areas have bent the knee to Daemon Stark and have elected someone known was Torrhen Thunderfist as their chief, and have added their strength to Stark’s host. The northmen have moved west under Stark’s command to conquer the lands of Skirling Pass, the Frostfangs and Thenn.”

“So the wolf truly does want to become King of the north then eh.” The king says. “Well that puts the Night’s Watch in an interesting position does it not? What happened to that Blackfyre scum who became Lord Commander?”

“He died fighting the wildlings in the Haunted Forest Your Grace. It appears the Night’s Watch has become an unwilling ally in Stark’s conquest of the north. After all it does lessen the threat the wildlings pose to the wall and also means they can more easily pay of the loan they owe to Volantis.” Roose Bolton says.

“Well I suppose that means we do not need to send the rest of our criminals to the wall then as punishment for their crimes then.” The king says.

“Where would we send them then Your Grace?” Jon asks genuinely curious. “The wall has often been the sentence for those whose deaths would serve no purpose. The watch has always had need of able bodied men, and our cells are not as strong as they used to be in holding all the filth that would otherwise head north.”

The king is silent for a moment before he says. “Oh we will still send men to the wall, but there will be many more executions now then there have been as of late. It is time we brought true justice back to Westeros, and show these criminals what happens to those who break the law.”


Queen Visenya Stark

Even this far north of the wall there was a certain grimness and darkness that reminded her of Winterfell. It was strange really, she had come to Winterfell as a fifteen year old girl, not really sure why she was there and not feeling anything other than pure resentment for the fact that her brother, the one person she had loved her whole life, the only person she had ever been able to trust was selling her to the northern savages that had defended their cause for years, and to a man she did not know simply for swords. Swords that they had not even bothered to send south to aid her brother, Daeron Stark had been a great man a proud man, she had grown up hearing stories of the man’s greatness and what she had seen during the first year of her marriage was a man who was old and a shadow of what he had once been, trying to make up for crimes he did not commit. Still once her brother had died slain by a traitor she had been on her own.

The man she had married, Daemon Stark now King of the North and Iron Islands, had been a man in mourning for his dead wife and daughter, a man who was so angry and resentful of so many things that Visenya had not been sure whether or not they would ever have a happy married live, even if there was no love there. Her husband had done his duty alright, he had gotten her with child on the day of their wedding and had continued to get her with child for the first ten years of their marriage. Their children Daenaera, Delena, Aemon, Barthogan, Cregan, Lyarra, Rickon, Dacey and Rodrik were the only things that had made life in Winterfell normal for her. And they were the only things that brought her husband and she together. They both fiercely loved their children to bits, both had lost too much to not be so fierce in their love of their children, and Visenya was determined that her children would never know the pain and uncertainty that she had during her own childhood. A warrior by training and nature if not by birth, Visenya had learnt how to defend herself and fight from a young age and she was determined that all of her children would know how to do so. That was why she had started training her daughters Daenaera and Delena how to fight with swords, Delena had taken to it like a fish took to water, Daenaera did not and preferred to sing and sew and do things that Visenya never understood and could not understand. No matter how hard she tried, her daughter just would not budge on the matter and would not even try to improve on her sword fighting skills, Daemon had told her to let it go and she had not, and they had argued, a fierce argument one of the many she had had with her husband over the years.

Visenya was very fond of her husband, she even thought she might love him, but how she could not, he was a kind man, loving to their children, he was a very good lord and king and was fair and just to his people and lords. His lords loved him and would die for him if they needed to; in fact they had proven as much during this campaign. But she did not know him, not the side of him that hardly anyone saw, she did not know his inner most thoughts, those he still kept shut off from her, even though she had spoken to her of her own life in Essos and the things she had seen and done, and though he had listened to her, he had never told her about himself. Other than what she knew now, she knew little about her husband beyond what she saw of him with their children or at court. It was as if he was deliberately shutting her out, as if she was not good enough for him, because she was not Samaira, the woman he had wed and loved before she had even been in the picture. There were times where Visenya wondered if her husband would have been happier with a ghost than with her and their children, and then she would feel guilty over such thoughts when she saw him with their children where he was unguarded and was not King of the North but simply a loving and caring father. And when she saw him with his grandmother, Queen Dowager Dacey Stark or with his uncle and his brother Gyles, she saw a side to him that she had never seen before and she felt hurt by that as it seemed as if he did not trust her, not with all of him. She had spoken to Dacey Stark about it and her good grandmother had simply told her that Daemon was far too much like his grandfather to ever admit to something when he did not know what it was he was feeling.

The more she thought about it, the more Visenya thought that perhaps her dealings with those southern lords still loyal to her father’s cause had perhaps done more harm than good for her relationship with her husband. Daemon Stark was very anit southern, he hated everything to do with the south and Visenya still remembered the arguments that they had had when she had been pregnant with Aemon; her husband had not wanted a Valyrian name for their firstborn son saying. “The Valyrians have brought nothing but pain and suffering to my family. Just because my grandfather was blinded by some gods damned illogical devotion to his bastard brother does not mean that I have to continue the tradition he started. House Stark is of the north and the blood of the first men, it is time we remember that and remind our bannermen that we are the north.” Eventually her husband had caved in and Aemon had been named Aemon, but her husband had said that he was not being named for “That idiot who died on the Bleeding Water, but for Maester Aemon.” The rest of their children had northern names and Visenya suspected that her husband had never really forgotten her stubbornness and the methods she had used to get the name to stick.

Then there were her dealings with Houses Peake, Costayne, Bracken, Shawney and Plumm and how she was negotiating trade deals with them to build up the coffers for another invasion for when her nephew Rhaegon was old enough to march to war. Her husband had found out and had argued with her, and had given her such a tongue lashing she had been worried that he would hit her. He had accused her of breaking the peace he had worked so hard to bring about, for something that had always eluded her family, and that he would not shed more northern blood for some gods dammed chair of swords that meant nothing to him or his people. When she had tried to point out that this war would be a chance to avenge the blood spilt by the Targaryens her husband’s eyes had hardened and he had stared at her and said. “Your family shed that blood, not mine and not the Targaryens. Yours.” After that they had not spoken all that much, in fact that had been before her husband had marched for beyond the wall that had been two years ago and she had not seen him since that day and it was eating away at her.

Though of course there was the frustration of not being able to fight, something that she had been doing since she was a child. So of course when her husband had sent a raven asking her to call for more men from his bannermen, and when they had arrived and started discussing who should lead this fresh deployment of men she had volunteered herself for the job and not a single lord had objected. And so that was how she had found herself marching north from Winterfell after saying a painful farewell to her children and leaving Maester Aemon in charge for the time being, they had marched for three weeks before reaching castle black where Ser Matthis Rowan the steward let the through the gates and into the lands beyond the wall. From there they had used the date of the letter Daemon had sent to march for where she thought her husband would be camped, on the front lines in the Milkwater She walked into the tent accompanied by Ser Loras Manderly and Lonnel Flint of the Winter’s Guard as her husband was speaking about some plan or the other, he stopped when he saw her and the two warriors of the guard. “My lady,” her husband said n change in his tone though his eyes had hardened “Please do join us, we could use your opinions.” Visenya smiled and took a seat next to her husband who dismissed her guards with his eyes. He continued speaking then as if nothing had happened. “A raven arrived from Lord Glover, he has managed to get the Skirling Pass and the clans there to surrender and bend the knee. They have pledged their support to the cause, I have instructed Glover to remain in the pass for the time being. Now that the extra men are here I will divide them up and send them out. I would hear what other news we have from the front.”

A big broad man Visenya recognised as Wyman Manderly spoke then, “I think that we should send men under the command of Ser Loras to aid Lord Glover in taking the Frozen Shore. The Seal clans will be expecting an attack Your Grace, better to attack them now when they do not have time to prepare than when they are ready and willing to fight.”

Her husband was silent for a moment and then he said. “My lady, how many men made it here with you?”

Visenya looked at her husband and saw that his eyes were still hard as ice, and so she said. “I brought the men asked for. 15,000 men from the lands near the seas.”

Her husband was silent and then said. “Very well, Ser Loras may command 8,000 of those men to the Frozen Shore, he is to join up with Lord Glover’s host in the pass and take the shore as bloodlessly as possible. But he is to bring me the Weeper’s head. Now as to our own plans, we hold the Milkwater, the wargmar clans have broken but we still face opposition from the giants and from the Gargoroth Clans. We must take the Frostfangs before we can take Thenn. It will be a long hard struggle but it can be done. We shall march in two days time, but Lords Umber and Ryswell shall stay behind to ensure we do not lose the Milkwater.”

There is a mutual voice of agreement from the lords present before a man with fiery auburn hair and a fiery mouth speaks. “And what of Thunderfist and the wildlings who have bent the knee to you Your Grace? Do they not need observation as well?”

Her husband’s jaw tightens and though his voice his calm, Visenya can hear the anger in it at being questioned by this auburn haired stranger. “Ser Ryam, I did not know you had such concerns about Thunderfist. The man might be a wildling but he has done more for our cause than you have at present. And need I remind you that you are acting as a representative of the Watch until your brothers elect a new commander. So until that time, hold off on the righteousness on me please. Now if there are no more questions, I wish to speak with my wife alone.” The lords all get up and bow before them, though Visenya can sense the tension in the air, she knows her husband is angry, if his direwolf Mars who is pacing back and forth in the tent is any indication. Once the last lord has left, her husband stands up and goes to the flap of the tent before turning round, his eyes icy and his voice cold. “So you decided to ignore my orders Visenya? Why am I not surprised. What were you thinking coming here with the men?”

Visenya bristles then and feels the anger boiling inside of her. “I am not some dim witted girl to remain at home whilst you are out fighting. I did not go against your orders, you said I was to remain in Winterfell until I was cleared for riding and fighting, well I have been for the past year, and I have decided to fulfil my duty as Queen of the North and come and fight beside you, my husband.”

Her husband snorts and says. “Are you sure that is the real reason why you came here Visenya? You say fighting is the one thing you are good at and the thing you love, but what of our children hmm? You are a mother first and foremost, never forget that Visenya. A fighter you might be, but our children need you, they are only young. They need their mother more than they need their father at this point. You have left them without both their parents, why do you think I said you could not come immediately, I knew you would have left much sooner had you known that I would have allowed it. But you have gone now, and you seem not to care that you have. What am I to make of this? What are my men to make of this? Their king’s wife appearing suddenly during the campaign after their king has ordered her to remain behind.”

“You think I do not miss our children Daemon?” Visenya says angrily. “I miss them more with each passing day. I made sure they were well looked after before I left, I would be of no use towards them if I did not come. I am a fighter Daemon not a stay at home person, I am better served to our family and our people if I am there to help you in this campaign. And what should you care what your bannermen would make of this, they will see a king and queen working together. And besides since when has the dragon ever thought to worry about the opinion of sheep?”

“I am not a dragon Visenya, how many times do I have to tell you this? I am a wolf, I am northerner, I might bare the name of a dragon, but I have northern blood flowing through my veins. My direwolf is proof of that, and without my bannermen I am nothing. They made my family king they can easily unmake me. I am not my grandfather and I am not a Blackfyre.” Daemon says his tone angry.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Visenya asks, her anger growing.

“I mean that your family is good at making allies, but they were terrible at rewarding their loyalty. Because they never won. And I will not have you poison my bannermen against me, or my family because of some foolish pride on your part. You are my wife, and my queen, and I respect you, hell I even care for you. But you will not undermine again, if you do then I will send you back to Winterfell bound and gagged.” Her husband says.

“Would you rather I be some weak willed woman who simply becomes a brood mare for you Your Grace? Would you rather I be a woman who knew not how to fight, so that you could keep me under lock and key, because that worked so well for you last time did it not, when the assassin came.” Visenya knows she has overstepped when the words come out of her mouth and yet she cannot bring them back.

Her husband is silent and then in a deadly whisper he says. “We leave at first light in two days time. Mars will lead you to your tent.”

“Daemon, I...” she says

Daemon interrupts her. “You have made your point Visenya, you will stay, but now I wish to be left alone. Now go.”

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