The Children Of Ice And Fire

VVSIGNOFTHECROSS

Chapter 016

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King Daemon I Stark

The war that had started when Rhaegar Targaryen had kidnapped his gooddaughter had ended with King’s Landing sacked and the Targaryen King and his grandchildren killed, butchered by Tywin Lannister’s men. The means were horrible and without honour but the end result was much the same, Daemon had gotten his peace with the Targaryens when he had had King Aegon and his grandchildren killed during the Tragedy of Dragonsville, and yet there was some sort of pleasure he took in knowing that the Targaryens were down to two members, Viserys Targaryen and Daenaerys Targaryen, one a little boy the other a babe in swaddling clothes. Daemon knew that war would come to Westeros once more, but he would not be alive to see it, and if he was being very honest with himself he did not care, he had seen enough war to last him a lifetime.

That his gooddaughter had returned safe and sound to Winterfell and that his sons and his wife had come back alive and whole was more than Daemon could have asked the gods for. He had seen so much war and destruction in the past that he knew that he should thank his stars that those he loved had come back, and he did each and every day through the pain he got up and had himself carried to the godswood where he prayed. His eldest son Aemon had come back a much changed man, war did that to people, his son had been wild and carefree before the war and now he was serious and grim, though Daemon knew he found happiness amongst his wife and son, and the bastard girl Lyanna had had with that scum Rhaegar Targaryen Shiera her name was. As for Barth well Barth was still angry but much less than he had been before the war, Ser Jonothor Darry had been slain by his son Daemon had heard from Aemon’s letter and so Cregan had been avenged. There had been some changes made after the war, with Robert Baratheon sitting the Iron Throne, Rickard’s son Eddard had remained in the south wed to Ashara Dayne whose brother had aided in the kidnapping of Lyanna, Daemon was not sure what to make of that situation but it was not his to ponder now.

Daemon knew he was dying, that was why he had organised his son’s Rickon’s wedding to Berena Hornwood, he wanted to make sure his children were all looked after and cared for before he left the world. With Halys Hornwood’s death and his wife dying in childbirth with a stillborn son Rickon was now the Prince of Hornwood and his children would become princes and princesses of Hornwood following him. Rickon, his bookish son, the son who Daemon spoke with about history and politics, he was a good lad and he was happy that his son was happy with his wife and with his lot in life, he was happy his son had found the happiness in his marriage that Daemon had not found in the early years of his own.

As for Daenaera, his oldest daughter had spent much of the war in Moat Cailin looking after both her own daughters Berena and Branda as well as Aemon’s boy Benjen. His eldest daughter was a widow, what with her husband Brandon’s death during the battle of the bells, to be a widow so young it broke Daemon’s heart and yet his eldest daughter soldiered on, she had always had a strong will and a stubbornness to her that was all Visenya, no matter how much both of them would argue the point Daemon knew it and he was glad that his daughter and granddaughters would be safe from harm and those who would seek to use her widowhood to their advantage.

Barth had wed Kyra Blackwood the sister of Tytos Blackwood the master of Sea Dragon Point before the war had happened, and it seemed his son had found some sort of happiness in his marriage as well. Daemon knew from what his daughters told him that Barth seemed to smile more around Kyra and their children than he had ever done as a boy growing up or since Cregan’s death, and for that Daemon truly was happy. He knew the anger his son had harboured after Cregan’s death, for it was the same anger that he had had after Samaira and Jorelle’s deaths, and it was not healthy, for it could if allowed to eat away at you leaving you nothing but a shell. Daemon had told his son once before he had ridden of for war that that was no way to live, angry at the world when there was so much for it to offer and for you to seize. It seemed his son had finally listened to his advice and was now living his life.

It was strange what looking death in the eye could do to a person. Daemon had known he was looking death in the eye for the duration of the cousins war, and he had fought onto life to make sure he was there when his son and wife returned. They had returned and the Targaryens were gone from power, and now he knew that he could let go, but still in these last few moons since his family had come back whole, he had made sure that he and his wife were on better terms than they had ever been on before. He had told her countless times since she had returned that he loved her and that he was sorry for ever doubting her and that he knew she would never betray him. In some small way it helped that Borros Reyne the man Daemon had so badly wanted to kill, had been badly maimed by the Targaryen forces at the Trident, so much so that he would never be able to wield a sword again let alone command a host in battle. That made some small part of Daemon feel much better, and he knew that he could rest easy.

Still he knew that today was the day that he would leave the world, his grandmother had left the world some two years ago before Harrenhal and all the mess that had followed it, and now it was his turn to go. He had asked for his wife, his children and his grandchildren to come and see him off, Maester Aemon and Rickard and Lyanna were also present, and though Daemon had already said farewell to his grandchildren they did not truly understand what was happening. And so he called for his Maester to come forward. “Maester Aemon, a true friend and ally you have been. Providing myself and my family with invaluable information for many years now. May you continue to do so and guide our family through this new era.” The maester bowed his head and shuffled off into a corner, “Rickard, a good friend and High Steward you have been. Though we did not always see eye to eye on some issues, I know that at the end you had the best interests of the north in mind. Stay strong now old friend, there is much that you still need to do. Lyanna, you shall be a good queen I know, strong and fierce and proud, you must be to survive the hell you have been through. Look after your children well, and listen to Aemon and lead him down the right path, he can be a bit of an idiot sometimes.” There were some laughs there, and then Daemon spoke to his two oldest children. “Daenaera and Delena my two spitfire princesses. I have always known you would make something of yourselves, be strong now and forever, and know that I will always love you.”

His two eldest children were crying though Delena was fighting hard not to show it. Daenaera spoke for the both of them. “We love you papa and we will always remember what you taught us.”

“Barth, my boy, my strong armed boy. You were named for a great man, a man who brought greatness to the north before the dragons came. Never forget who you are my son and never let the anger take hold of you. Let your family know who you are, and you will never forget it.” Daemon said, his voice growing weaker.

“I will father.” Barth said solemnly.

Then came Lyarra, Rickon, Dacey and Rodrik his four youngest children. “Ah my little wolf pups,” Daemon said softly as they came to his side. “My fierce little wolf pups who have grown so strong and proud. I remember the day each of you were born, as if it were yesterday. My little wolf pups that have become wolves in their own right. Always remember that the pack survives my little wolf pups, do what you can for each other and make sure you always remember your pack, both here and wherever you make your home in the future.”

He took a deep breath and then said. “Aemon,” His eldest son knelt down by his side and took his hand. “My boy, my heir, my pride. You were named for the man who stands here with us and for the Dragonknight, and I cannot say enough just how truly proud I am of you. You have fought a war and won, and emerged a better person for it. I know you will learn from what I have taught and from the mistakes I made, and I know you will lead the north into a glorious age that none will ever be able to rival. I am proud of you my son and I love you.”

It was getting harder for him to breathe now and the light was getting weaker, still he had some more words to say, and the face of his son Cregan dead before his time came into view and he spoke. “One of my wolf pups is missing. Cregan, a brave and fierce boy, he was taken before his time. His blood debt has been paid, but the loss of his life will always haunt me, I will see him soon and I will give him all of your love. And I will tell him what we could not tell him in life. I know he will be happy to know that all is well here in Winterfell and the north. Soon enough I will be reunited with him. But I still have to say goodbye to my wife, Senya where are you?” Daemon asked, his eyes were getting clouded.

“I am here my love, right here beside you.” His wife replied taking hold of his hand.

He turned to face her, he raised his free hand and sketched her face with that hand. He stopped at a strand of her hair that was loose, “I always did love your hair my love. Remember on our wedding night, when I played with your hair when I thought you were asleep?”

His wife gave a sob and then a chuckle. “I do my love.”

“I always did love your hair. And then I came to love you, my fierce she dragon. You were always the queen the north deserved more than I was ever the king it deserved. You were my rock, you were my truest friend and confidant. I suppose the old buzzard was right in the end. I was not always fair to you my love, but I know that we both wanted the same thing in the end. And we got it did we not? I know you will be fine without me, but I want you to know that I love you and that I will look after all of you from beyond. I love you Senya.” Daemon said his voice getting weaker as the light went dark.

“I love you too Daemon.” Those are the last words Daemon Stark, King of the North and the Iron Islands, the Giantslayer, the First Men King and Defender of the True Faith, hears before he passes onto the great beyond. He dies on the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the 283rd Year after Aegon’s Landing. His son Aemon is crowned as King Aemon Stark first of his name on the thirtieth day of the twelfth month of the 283rd year After Aegon’s Landing.


Lord Stannis Baratheon

It had been two years since the cousin’s war had ended, with the Sack of King’s Landing. Stannis had not been there for the sack, but he had been told that it had been a gruesome sight, rape, slaughter and butchery at ruled the day then, and the Lannisters had sealed their part in it all by having Prince Rhaegar’s wife and children brutally killed. Though Stannis did not agree with the way in which it had been carried out he knew that it was something that needed to have been done in order to ensure that Robert’s throne was secure, as it was Viserys and Daenaerys Targaryen had escaped from Dragonstone before the new royal fleet had been fully built, and now there was still a legitimate threat to Robert’s new dynasty and it was something that they were all aware of, as well as the possibility of future war.

Whilst Robert seemed to have gotten stale since the war had ended indulging himself in drinking and whoring and never seemingly spending time in his wife’s own bed, Stannis was just glad that the war was over. There were times when he could still see the blood of the men he had killed, and their bodies often felt like a force that were suffocating him in his sleep, so much so that he would often wake up in the middle of the night sweating and with his heart pounding. It was not something he was proud of, but it was something that had been happening for so often that when he had last been to Storm’s End he had asked Cressen for something to aid him in sleep, as of now it was still to do anything.

The cousins war as the war that had overthrown the Targaryens was being called had done much damage to the kingdom, the kingdom Robert had come into from the Targaryens had been greatly damaged and destroyed by the latent folly of the Targaryens and as such there was much that needed to be done in order to repair it. There were lords who Aerys Targaryen and his father had managed to offend during the course of their reigns that had needed to be brought back into the fold by giving them concessions on certain tax duties and by giving them positions of influence at court. People such as Lord Vaemond Velaryon were kept under close scrutiny but were also rewarded for bringing in new trading contracts with the free cities and for providing new designs for ships for the royal fleet, designs that would make the royal fleet stronger and faster and would therefore mean that the throne would never again have to depend so heavily on the Redwyne fleet, a fleet that had itself been so badly damaged during the cousins war by the Ironborn.

Robert had held good to his promise and had named Stannis Lord of Storm’s End and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands following his coronation and the settling of certain affairs within the realm as a whole. Once the council had been established and Stannis as Master of Ships had overseen the completion of the new royal fleet, he had been given leave to settle the affairs of the Stormlands and make sure that their traditional base of power remained so. Those houses that had fought for Robert and Stannis during the war were rewarded heftily for their service, and those such as House Connington that had fought for the Targaryens had land and other things stripped from their possession, Robert had given half of the Connington lands to his friend Lord Eddard Stark who was wed to Ashara Dayne. Robert had also removed the title of Prince and Princess from the Martells, and had named them solely as lord or lady. Princess Loreza Martell had died shortly after the sack of King’s Landing from a heart failure was the common belief, and so her son Lord Doran Martell had come to the lordship of Summerhall and it was with him that Stannis had negotiated the ending of hostiles between Storm’s End and Summerhall and ensured that the Martells and their bannermen did not try and cause any issue for Robert or his new dynasty.

And somehow in the midst of doing all of that, Stannis had also fulfilled his betrothal to Catelyn Tully and had wed her in the great sept of Baelor, with the court and both their families present. His wife was a nice woman, smart and dedicated to her honour and her duty, she embodied her house words, and for that Stannis was grateful, she was not one of those simpering fools who had so followed the new Queen around court, she was someone he could actually have a conversation with, and he had found her to be quite engaging as a talking partner. Of course that she was good looking was no hindrance either and soon enough she had given birth to Stannis’ first born son, a boy they had named Robb who had his raven black hair and his blue eyes but his mother’s face otherwise. Robb was soon followed by another black haired and blue eyed boy they named Steffon in honour of Stannis; father, and his wife had just given birth to a daughter who she had named Sansa, a true riverlanders name for a girl who looked exactly like her mother with her fiery auburn hair and blue eyes, Stannis sensed that she would be a beauty when she was older.

As well as his own children Catelyn had to look after his little brother Renly, his little brother reminded him so much of Robert at that age, so full of energy and questions. Questions that Stannis often had very little to no patience to answer and so it fell to his wife to answer them and where she did not know the answers to provide good guesses which she would later ask Stannis about and then he would have to go and speak with Renly about them. His little brother would be a good man when he grew up, Stannis was determined to see that happen he would not let his brother turn into Robert, and he would not let him feel alone, like Stannis had so often felt alone whilst growing up in Storm’s End whilst Robert was away and his father and mother were busy at court.

Shaking his head he brought himself back to the matter at hand. The hand of the king, Jon Arryn had called for a small council meeting and so they had all come, members of Robert’s small council, the hand himself a good and honourable man, the master of laws Lord Eddard Stark another good and honourable man, master of coin and a snake Lord Daemon Celtigar who had been suggested by master of whispers Lord Roose Bolton, and the two old stays Grand Maester Pycelle and Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Barristan Selmy. As ever, Robert had deigned not to attend the meeting and so it fell to Lord Arryn to begin. “I thank you for coming today my lords. As you know it has been some time since we last met, and as such I would hear what news of the kingdom there is.”

Lord Celtigar spoke first. “The royal treasury continues to grow every day my lords. Trade with Bravos, Myr, Lys and Tyrosh have seen our gold increase to twelve million dragons, and with the taxes coming in for this current year we should see an increase to twenty million dragons soon enough.”

“That is very good; keep up the good work Lord Celtigar. Now what news from the seas Lord Stannis?” Lord Arryn asked.

Stannis looked at his notes and then said. “The royal fleet is complete and had a successful test run two days ago, sailing down the narrow sea down to the coastline without any impediments. Should his grace have need of the royal fleet for war anytime soon then he shall not be disappointed. As to news from the seas, well the Northern royal fleet has sailing down the narrow sea once more, for Tyrosh and Lys, and one of the captains reported that there are more ships being built in the Stepstones though for what light he is not sure.”

Lord Arryn nods and says. “That is good. Now Ser Barristan have you had any more thoughts about who to nominate to the Kingsguard in place of those traitors who are residing with the exile?”

Stannis often wonders what Ser Barristan makes of being the Lord Commander of his brother’s Kingsguard, how he feels to be serving the king who got to the throne by stepping over the bodies of the people Ser Barristan had sworn to protect and whether he regrets not taking death or not joining his other sworn brothers across the narrow sea in Volantis. Still the man seems to be putting his all into serving Robert and as such replies. “As such my lord hand I have thought about it long and hard and I have come to the conclusion that the only other man who could be worthy of the white cloak is a man who fought hard and well for the Osgreys during their rebellion against the Tyrells. Ser Edgar Osgrey.”

“Very well, I shall send the raven myself to Coldmoat and have Robert approve the nomination. Now what other news is there for us to discuss?” Lord Arryn says.

Lord Roose Bolton a snake and a cunning one at that speaks then his voice soft. “My sources have reported to me that despite the peace we have and despite the assurances we have had from King Aemon Stark that he means no harm to the new Baratheon Dynasty, Visenya Stark is still in talks with House Osgrey, Costayne, Peake, Shawney and Bracken. It should be noted that all of these houses saw their strength increase following the ending of the war, most particularly House Osgrey who are now Lord Paramounts of the Reach and Warden of the South.”

There is silence and then Lord Arryn speaks. “Now that is most interesting. Of course it could be a case that King Aemon knows not of what his mother is doing but I find that most unlikely. Now Lord Eddard, you grew up in the north and you know both the King and Visenya Stark reasonably well, tell me what you think these continued discussions could mean?”

For the first time since he has known the man Lord Eddard seems very nervous and uneasy. His voice his resigned when he answers. “Growing up in the north I knew that Queen Dowager Visenya Stark hated the Targaryens and was a fervent believer that her nephew Rhaegon Blackfyre should sit the Iron Throne as the true king and the only true descendant of King Aegon the Unworthy. Her most fervent supporter was and is Lord Borros Reyne, and though the man is crippled beyond belief, my sister writes that he still hates House Lannister almost as passionately as he did as a young man. Both of them want to see the Lannisters dead as well as yourself Ser Barristan. And they wish to seat Rhaegon Blackfyre on the throne.”

“Then perhaps, it would be best to have all three killed?” Grand Maester Pycelle asks. “After all King Aemon Stark does not seem a bit interested in the south. Remove his mother and his cousin and make it look as if it was done by the Targaryens and we need never risk war.”

Lord Arryn looks at the Grand Maester for a long time before saying. “No that would only create more questions than answers, and it would disturb the peace we now have. Lord Bolton keep an ear out for any movements that Visenya Stark makes for the south, and send subtle reminders to these houses that she corresponds with that they owe their success to Robert not to this Stark Queen Dowager. Once Robert’s heir is born such talk should stop and we should be able to win over the houses that remain uncertain.”

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