The Children Of Ice And Fire

VVSIGNOFTHECROSS

Chapter 010

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Prince Rhaegar Targaryen

The screams of the dying sometimes came to him in the middle of the day, when he was playing with his daughter Rhaenys and his brother Viserys, when he was with Elia talking about the events of the day, even when he was sparring with Ser Arthur or in council. They would hit him and he would be unable to do anything for long moments of time, paralysed as he was with grief and sorrow. His first experience of war had not gone as he had planned, ever since he had read that passage in one of the old books in the library of the Red Keep he had been convinced that he was going to be the best warrior to have graced Westeros since his ancestor Aemon the Dragonknight. Oh sure he was good with swords and fighting, but the strategy of war had completely passed him by, it was one thing to read about battle tactics and planning and another to implement one’s learning into action, and he had been found out.

The war in Dorne had been a disaster, it had gone well at first and they had struck some key advantages and then the moment Gyles Stark had come out from the Yronwood with an army at his back things had gone downhill very quickly. They had fought many battles during the nine moon campaign in Dorne, some they had won and some they had lost, but what had sealed the fate of the campaign and had ensured continued Dornish independence was the battle of the Sun. With the Tyrell host having retreated bloody and broken back to the Reach, the armies of the crown were significantly reduced and so they had fought a Dornish host that was incredibly strong and bolstered by the Golden Company, and they had lost. Only emerging safe and sound due to Gyles Stark’s honourable intentions, the man had had Rhaegar at sword point, or more aptly spear point but had given him the chance to retreat, beaten and bruised as he was. In hindsight, Rhaegar realised that the man had let him live so as to make sure he experienced the humiliation that came with a failed campaign after many expected them to win.

The failed campaign in Dorne was the third such campaign to have failed in the past two years. The first two, attempted invasions of the Iron Islands and the Three Sisters had also failed, because Winterfell had been ready for them and had sent word ahead, how they had known of his father’s plans he knew not and yet still the wars had gone ahead and they had failed. There was much strife and anger amongst the lords Rhaegar knew, they were unhappy with having given so much to the crown and having little to nothing to actually show for it. And Rhaegar knew his family were balancing on dangerous territory especially as the Starks had once again caused havoc in the Riverlands before stopping.

Rhaegar was also aware that after the failed campaign in Dorne, many of his father’s lords had revaluated their opinion of him, they had seen firsthand the difference being an excellent tourney knight and an actual commander and warrior were for princes of the blood in him. He knew that it was no secret that he had only started training with weapons as a boy of twelve, when most boys were squiring for lords of hedge knights, of course being a prince of the blood he had served as his father’s squire and had been knighted shortly before Tywin Lannister’s failed attempt to get him to wed Cersei Lannister. His father had refused and then had fallen into madness, and Rhaegar was now determined that if he were to regain his father’s lords’ approval once more he would need to devote more time to the running of the realm and practicing his swordsmanship than pouring over the scrolls that had shaped most of his life, and would shape his children’s.

Rhaegar knew that his father was slipping further and further into madness, and that something needed to be done about him, and yet it was easier said than done to remove one’s father. Rhaegar could still remember the kind and caring man his father had been before Duskendale, and the fact that that same man sometimes reappeared when the madness disappeared made it even harder for Rhaegar to fully commit to removing his father from power. But then he thought of his little brother Viserys and his mother Rhaella and the constant danger they were both in, and he thought of his wife and daughter, and how he always feared leaving them alone lest they be subject to his father’s whims, and his resolve grew stronger.

He had not Elia all that well before they had married, he had met her once or twice at court or on the rare occasions when his father allowed him to travel the kingdom, he had stopped off at Summerhall once or twice, the home of his great grandfather. She was a sweet and brave woman who had endured the stigma of being frail with much pride. He did not love her, but he was fond of her, and they were friends, and yet he worried that she would not be able to give him anymore children, birthing Rhaenys had nearly killed her and he knew what the prophecy hinted at, there needed to be three heads, a Rhaenys, a Aegon and a Visenya, he had his Rhaenys but he needed his Aegon and Visenya, but he was loath to do that and kill his wife with the child. He needed answers and for that he had turned to his great uncle Maester Aemon who served as Grand Maester of the Northern Kingdom, his uncle told him to do what he felt was right, but what was right for the kingdoms might not be right for his family.

There was much he did not feel ready for and yet he had made his bed and he would live with the hand that life had dealt him. There was the council meeting that he was now waiting to start and then he would meet with Arthur and Oswell to discuss Harrenhal. He entered the council chamber and was surprised to find his father sat in the king’s chair, his father had not attended a council meeting for nearly two years, now so to find him here was very worrying and surprising. The new hand of the King Lord Owen Merryweather the man who had replaced Tywin Lannister who had resigned under some sort of pretext after learning that his eldest son and heir Jaime Lannister was to be raised to the Kingsguard replacing Ser Harrold Grandison who had died in Dorne. Next to Merryweather sat master of coin Lord Roose Bolton a cold and calculating man, next to him sat master of laws Lord Andros Mooton the new Lord of Maidenpool and the eldest brother of Rhaegar’s former squire Myles, to his right sat master of whispers the eunuch Lord Varys and then there was Ser Gerold and Grand Maester Pycelle. Rhaegar sat next to Pycelle and waited for his father to begin speaking. His father appeared surprisingly clear minded when he spoke. “It has been sometime since I have attended a council meeting, I wish to be brought up to speed with the goings on in my kingdom.”

Lord Bolton spoke first his words soft. “Trade has resumed as normal Your Grace. We are exporting more than we are importing to the Free Cities and the demand for wines and the copper and bronze on offer in King’s Landing has increased in both Dorne and the North. The total revenue in the crown’s coffers now stands at 12 Billion golden dragons.”

“That is good,” the king said and then he asked. “Now what of the goings on within the kingdom with regards to law making. Lord Mooton?”

Andros Mooton was a fierce man with sword in hand and had a firm sense of right and wrong. “The people of the throne’s kingdom are obeying the laws put in place Your Grace. Rape, thievery, murder and other crimes are down to their lowest since before the days of King Daeron the Good.”

“That is perfect,” the king said. Then he turned to Lord Varys and asked. “Now what whispers have your birds gotten you as of late Varys?”

Lord Varys was a sly man who Rhaegar did not trust an inch, but of course his father had come to rely on the eunuch since Duskendale. “Well Your Grace, it appears the north has gone to sleep once more, the anger that they felt over the invasions has subsided it appears Maester Aemon has more influence with the angry wolf then we thought. It also appears that new internal tensions have emerged between the king and queen involving a certain Borros Reyne. What they are about though even my little birds do not know. Still that could perhaps be used to our advantage.”

The King nodded and then asked. “And what of Dorne, what are those vipers doing?”

Lord Varys tittered then and replied. “Berros Yronwood is dead Your Grace. He died in his sleep, his son King Edgar now sits the sun chair, and broods. Gyles Stark has retired to Sunspear for the time being, my birds tell me the two had a falling out over something, and that the Yronwoods might have lost their right hand man.”

“Good, keep an ear to the ground for Dornish news and perhaps we might be able to see what other trouble we can cause there.” Rhaegar’s father said. He was silent for a moment and then he turned his attention towards Rhaegar and had a mad glint in his eyes when he spoke. “I have also decided that it would do the people of my kingdom some good to see that their king is not an invalid. Therefore I have decided that Ser Jaime’s investiture into the Kingsguard shall take place at the Tourney of Harrenhal and I shall of course come to the tourney to oversee the investiture.”

Rhaegar felt something in his stomach drop, but he kept his expression neutral, knowing that it was likely the spider had caught whiff of what it was he had been planning. His mind was working very quickly throughout the rest of the council session, so that when his father dismissed them from the chamber, Rhaegar went straight to the place where he, Arthur and Oswell had agreed they would meet to discuss their plans. He found both of them there waiting, and he said in hushed tones. “Walk with me sers. We must not be overheard.” And so they walked from the courtyard into the sparring yard, where the sound of steel on steel would override their conversation. Still he spoke his next words in a hushed tone. “My father is coming to Harrenhal.”

They stopped walking and then Arthur spoke in a hushed voice. “The spider must have told him. Does he suspect the purpose behind the tourney?”

“I am not sure Arthur; I do not know what the Spider told him. But whatever plans we have made they must be called off. We cannot have become anymore suspicious. Prince Aemon Stark and the Starks of Moat Cailin are coming to the tourney as a gesture of good faith, my father cannot be allowed to aggravate them.” Rhaegar replied.

“Will Lord Tywin come now that his grace is coming though? Without Lord Tywin’s backing it is unlikely that others such as Lord Jon or Lord Hoster will consent to doing anything.” Ser Oswell cautioned.

“Most unlikely Oswell,” Rhaegar said. “The old lion is too proud and angry to be seen with father now. Still, if we can find some way to get Jaime out of the Kingsguard before the vows then perhaps he might be more willing to come. Arthur how goes that?”

“Badly Your Grace,” Arthur replies. “The boy is quite determined to become a sworn brother. Nothing I say will change his mind.”

Rhaegar sighed and said. “Very well keep trying and I shall see what strings I can pull with Ser Gerold and Lord Merryweather.”


Prince Aemon Stark

It was strange to think that he was a married man now, he had always know that as the eldest son and heir it was his duty to wed and continue on the Stark line but he had never known what to think and expect of the marriage that would inevitably come his way. He had at first thought that perhaps his father might arrange a match with one of his bannermen’s daughters, one of the Mormonts perhaps or perhaps even a Karstark or Dreadstark, and there had been a time after he had become closer to his father that he had feared that perhaps his mother might seek to wed him to one of her southern allies, thankfully none of those potential options had happened and he had been wed to Lyanna Stark, only daughter of his father’s High Steward Rickard Stark. As her father was High Steward of the North, Lyanna had often spent a fair bit of time in Winterfell, and as such Aemon had practically grown up with her, and he had come to admire and love her fierceness and her stubbornness and her pride. He loved her dearly, truly he did and he was happy that there was none of the awkwardness he knew there had been between his mother and father in the early days of their marriage, between him and Lyanna. They truly understood one another.

He also knew he was a bit of a push over when it came to his wife, he would do anything for her and to keep her happy, and so when he had learnt that she was with child, though he had always wanted to name his firstborn child either Maelys or Visenya in honour of the uncle he had never met and his mother. When Lyanna had mentioned that she had always wanted to name her firstborn son after her brother Benjen Aemon had acquiesced, though he had managed to get her to promise that if their firstborn was a girl they would name her after his mother. Prince Benjen Stark was born on the fourth day of the fifth month of the 280th year after Aegon’s Landing with his mother’s dark brown hair and his violet eyes, and his mother’s long face. His son, he would give anything to protect his son and his wife, his life as a hot headed prince had come to an end the day he had wed Lyanna and he had ended his wildness the day his son was born. Truly it was amazing what being a father and a husband could do to you.

Aemon along with his brother Barth, Lyanna and her brothers Brandon who was wed to Aemon’s elder sister Daenaera, Eddard who had fostered in the Vale, and Benjen for whom his own son was named for had been invited to attend the tourney at Harrenhal by Prince Rhaegar. Though Aemon had been unsure of whether or not they should go south considering the hatred his father bore for the south and the risks that taking a young child on such a journey could have, eventually Lord Rickard had said that they should go south as a peace gesture to end any lingering hostiles, and so they had left their son at Moat Cailin with Lord Rickard and Lad Lyanarra. Harrenhal was just as impressive as Aemon had thought it would be, a towering structure that showed just how greedy man could be, it was a vast ruin but an impressive ruin nonetheless and Lord Whent had showed off his strength and wealth as they had approached the castle.

Once they arrived at Harrenhal, Aemon had allowed the three warriors of the winter’s guard accompanying them Ser Loras Manderly, Ser Marcus Locke and Edrick Flint to take some time off and rest. Aemon spent time with his wife and his good family, and making jokes with Brandon and Benjen over the various things the southerners considered courtly and impressive which to them seemed garish and unnecessary. Aemon also met Eddard’s friend Lord Robert Baratheon, the man who had won some acclaim for leading the charge at the Sands in Dorne, the man was a big and strong, but a bit of an idiot who ogled Lyanna but did nothing more than that to her, still Aemon knew from Lyanna who had heard it from her brother that Robert was betrothed to Lady Cersei Lannister and the man had not the decency to honour the betrothal flirting with anything that moved and fucking it as well. Aemon knew that had he not been present Brandon would have done the same, but that he was here meant that his goodbrother controlled himself, otherwise he would have a case of sword through bowels.

The tourney itself was as impressive as had been promised. There was a singing competition; there was an archery competition that Barth won hands down as the best archer there. There was a melee that Barth one once more, using his anger as a way to best his opponents who were not used to Barth’s blitzkrieg style of fighting. Then came the jousting, Aemon’s goodbrother Brandon competed in the jousting making it to the semis before being unhorsed by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, who some were calling the hope of the south given his father’s apparent madness. Prince Rhaegar won the jousting and then did the unthinkable; he passed over his wife for the queen of love and beauty and placed the crown on Lyanna’s head. Aemon had seen red, and though his anger did not simmer as hot as Barth’s or Brandon’s at the insult and the disregard the Targaryen bastard had shown his wife and him, Aemon had remained calm and collected. Aemon had asked Lyanna why she had been chosen and then she had said that it had been her who had been the Knight of the Laughing Tree, the mystery knight whose head Aerys Targaryen had demanded, the knight who had beaten three knights of house Frey, house Blount and house Haigh for the actions of their squires in bullying Lord Howland Reed, who was a cousin of Aemon’s. Rhaegar Targaryen had apparently found her as she was removing her armour and they had spoken, and the prince had promised not to reveal her secret, but now he had gone too far. Still they remained for the dance and then Aemon had to leave for the north taking with him Ser Loras Manderly and Ser Marcus Locke, as he had been summoned by his father to deal with court business. He had wanted to bring Lyanna back north with him, ut she had asked to remain in the south to explore the southern kingdom and learn more of it from Eddard, Aemon had acquiesced.

He had picked up his son from Moat Cailin and then ridden back to Winterfell, and that was where he was sat in his father’s solar listening to Lords Rickard Karstark and Domeric Dreadstark arguing over some patch of land. “Karstarks have been using that land since the days of our founder Your Graces. Lord Dreadstark has impeded on it in his greed and lust for what is not his.”

Aemon’s father sighed and then asked. “Lord Dreadstark do you admit to doing this thing?”

Lord Domeric Dreadstark of course denied the accusations more fervently. “No Your Graces, I am simply using the lands that my father and his father before him have used to grow our crops and produce goods to sustain us through the winter that is sure to come. Lord Karstark simply has issue because he did not think to check a map to see where the lands fall.”

“Well then it is a good thing I did. Maester Aemon if you could.” Aemon heard his father ask. The old grand maester shuffled forward and placed the map on the table, and then Aemon’s father pointed at the land in question. “Aemon tell me what does this map say about the land that is being disputed?”

Aemon looks at where his father is pointing and then says. “The land borders the last river, and the lands belonging both to Karhold and the Dreadfort father. It has no clear lord and has never had any clear lord.”

“And what would that suggest to you then Aemon?” his father asked.

“That this land is under neither lord’s jurisdiction and is therefore open for them both to use as they see fit.” Aemon replied.

“Exactly.” His father says. “Now my lords, this land will be used by both of you for the producing of crops and the producing of foods for winter. I will hear no more arguments, we are northmen not southerners. Now if there is nothing more your case is dismissed and settled.”

The two lords grudgingly accept his father’s judgement and then bow and walk out. Once they are gone, Aemon’s mother walks in and Aemon’s father stands up and says. “I shall leave you two to speak.” He then walks out of his solar as if he’s on fire, Aemon frowns but says nothing. His mother sits where his father was sat just two minutes ago.

“So how was your trip south sweetling?” his mother asks him.

“It was interesting to say the least. The riverlands truly is a colourful and beautiful land mother. And the tourney itself was very good fun, Barth was unstoppable in the melee, and brought down men who had fought in Dorne. Of course Prince Rhaegar had to go and ruin it all by causing a scandal with crowning Lyanna.” Aemon says.

His mother smile sadly. “I know sweetling. Targaryens have never been known to think rationally at the best of times, what was the man to do when he laid eyes on your beautiful wife? Tell me why did Lyanna wish to remain behind in the south and not come back north with you? Does she not miss Benjen?”

“Oh she does mother truly she does. It’s just that she wanted to see more of the south, and well Brandon wished to see more of the Riverlands as well and so they agreed to travel the riverlands for some time and then they would return. She should be back in about two or three weeks.” Aemon replies. He then asks a question that has been bothering him for some time. “Mother, what has happened between you and father? You two seem a lot tenser around each other than you were before I left for Harrenhal.”

His mother sighs and then says. “I would say it was nothing, but I know you are too old and too smart to fall for that. It has something to do with a conversation your father had with Lord Borros.”

“I do not understand mother. What could a conversation between father and Lord Borros have to do with relations between yourself and father?” Aemon asks confused.

His mother sighs and then says. “Your father confronted Lord Borros about a rumour he had heard whilst marching back from the south some time ago. The rumour said that Lord Borros was in love with me, your father confronted him and asked him if the rumour was true. Lord Borros at first tried to wave the rumour off, but eventually admitted to it. He told your father that he does love me but that he will not act on his feelings so long as we all draw breath, but that he will not stop being my staunchest friend, ally and protector. Your father does not believe Borros and as such has said that he cannot come to Winterfell again unless the need is dire. Your father then asked me if I loved Lord Borros,” his mother takes a breath then.

“And what did you say mother?” Aemon asks suddenly needing to know the answer, needing to know that his mother is not about to leave them for some southern oaf.

His mother looks at him and says. “I told him that I am fond of Borros, and that he is a good friend of mine but that I would never do anything to betray the vows I swore before the heart tree to your father. I love your father with my hear Daemon, but Borros is a good friend, and I told Daemon he had no business sending Borros away from Winterfell like that.”

Aemon is about to reply in defence of his father when the door opens and his father walks in holding a letter and looking thunderous. “What is it father?” Aemon asks.

“Word from Moat Cailin,” his father says taking a deep breath, Aemon’s mother gets up from the chair and goes to his father and takes his hand and looks at him. King Daemon goes on. “It appears that Lord Brandon and Lyanna and their companions Kyle Royce, Donnor Fenn, Ethan Glover and Edrick Blackmyre were accosted whilst they were riding northwards from Riverrun, they were near the Green Fork when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and his friends came and attacked Brandon and his party. Brandon’s companions were killed and Brandon himself was badly injured, Rhaegar Targaryen took Lyanna by force and rode south with her on his horse. Brandon was found by Walder Rivers and taken to the Twins for aid and then rode north once he was deemed fit to ride. Lyanna has been taken Aemon.”

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