The Children Of Ice And Fire

VVSIGNOFTHECROSS

Chapter 018

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Prince Maegor Targaryen

Though he was a grown man with children of his own there were times when Maegor Targaryen the heir to the kingdom of Volantis often felt like he was still a child, learning the ways of the world. He supposed that was just the way things were to be, after all his great grandfather King Aerion was now nearing one hundred and had ruled as king of Volantis for some fifty seven years, Maegor knew that there was a lot of talk about what would happen once his great grandfather died, after all the people of Volantis had only known life under King Aerion, and the thought of life without his person looming over them all was something that was frightening for most of the nobility, but was also something that Maegor both waited for and dreaded in equal measure. He loved his great grandfather truly he did, but he saw the pain that King Aerion’s life had become, and he did not wish for his great grandfather to continue having to suffer through it all, the illnesses and the loss of movement, his great grandfather often had trouble speaking and often communicated through eye signals, for Maegor who had seen his great grandfather as this great man who could never be brought low, it was hard to see and to take.

Of course, his great grandfather had made a promise to their cousins from Westeros, Prince Viserys and Princess Daenaerys were growing up under Maegor’s watchful eye, learning the ways of ruling a kingdom and the ways in which to lead men. Prince Viserys, or should that be King Viserys, was a keen student who relished in learning the histories of Westeros and Essos and also seemed fascinated by the histories of their family both in Westeros and here in Volantis. The boy also seemed very comfortable in his sword practice, being better than Maegor had been at his age with a sword, though Maegor preferred fighting with a war hammer. The girl, Princess Daenaerys was a sweet child, who often played with Maegor’s own children and seemed to be very popular with the nobility of Volantis. Maegor knew that his great grandfather kept a close eye on the boy to make sure he showed no signs of the madness that had affected his father and other members of their family, so as to make sure that the boy’s cause in Westeros would not be hindered. There were times when Maegor would sometimes doubt whether or not building up Viserys for a kingdom that might not want him in the future was truly worth it, after all the boy was fifteen and would soon need to be knighted, and yet there did not seem to be any chaos brewing in Westeros, not having Varys present to cause it certainly had been a big hindrance to their plans.

Of course there were other things that Maegor had to think about as well, with his great grandfather’s health rapidly deteriorating he had taken on the bulk of the work that needed to be done in ensuring that Volantis continued to run smoothly. He dealt with the nobles, the two main houses in Volantis that dominated court politics behind the black walls, the Boyars and the Maegyrs. Both houses had wed into the royal family at one point or the other, and both were key to ensuring trade and commerce ran smoothly in Volantis, of course both houses had had a long standing feud with one another that went back to the century of blood, and it had fallen to Maegor to deal with their disputes over land and other such things. Maegor had given concessions to both houses, and in cases where it seemed that there would be common ground he had taken the land and made it part of the crown’s possession. His own mother had been from the Boyar family and as such he knew that his uncle expected him to grant concessions to the family, but Maegor had learnt long ago that to show favour to one side was to stab yourself in the foot with the other, and cause tension and anger, and though his uncle no longer spoke to him he had his own ways of dealing with that, and peace in Volantis continued.

Thankfully his great grandfather had seen a way of breaking the tension in Volantis and had wed Maegor, to his sister Daenaerys, Maegor’s sister was a good woman, a kind woman and someone who Maegor loved dearly as a sister, they were good friends and did their bit to ensure the continued line of their family. They had four children together, Vaegor who was betrothed to Princess Daenaerys King Viserys’ sister, Jaehaerys, Mariah and Laena who had been named after Maegor’s mother. Vaegor was a bold lad, smart and glib of tongue, he would make the perfect prince when his time came Maegor knew and he doted on his younger siblings as well as his betrothed. Jaehaerys was a shy lad who preferred the company of books to those of his cousins and siblings, though he could have a good conversation when prompted to. Mariah and Laena were like the same person, the one never being seen without the other. Maegor loved his children dearly and dreaded the day when they would all be grown and would have to leave home.

There was of course another more pressing matter that had demanded Maegor’s attention for the past couple of moons, the sailors who docked in Volantis had reported being harassed by war galleys that had flown some sort of mockery of a banner, a flaming heart with a skull and cross bones, none had known the skull and bones, but all had known the flaming heart. The red god had that banner, and as such when ships from Volantis and her allies had gone missing, Maegor had questioned the red priests as to whether they knew of this new set of pirates, they did not, and it took until Varys put his network into use that they learnt that these pirates worked for the Black Heart a new pirate king. Who had set his sights on conquering Volantis and taking all the wealth he could. Maegor had convened a war council to discuss what needed to be done, and who would lead what part of the defence. The members of the council were all present, Ser Laenor Bittersteel the master of the port, Lord Tycho Boyar the Keeper of coin, Lord Maegon Maegyr the Captain of the Laws and finally Varys Maegor’s bastard brother who served as the spymaster for their council. Maegor nodded to the men and then spoke. “You all know why you are here my lords. I do not wish to tarry long, but first I must hear what news you all have of your respective departments. Varys what news from the front?”

His brother smiled then and said. “Yunkai and Meeren have been delayed in mobilising their forces by Astapor and New Ghis. It appears that some of the masters within the slaver cities remember their allegiances well enough. And as such the Black Heart does not have enough ships to overwhelm our fleet Your Grace. However, the Black Heart is bringing men and ships from Lys and Myr to do his dirty work for him here.”

“Is Saan leading the ships from Lys and Myr? And what of Bravos what do they do?” Maegor asked.

“No Your Grace,” his brother replies. “They are not led by Saan, they are led by some former mummer known as Jhago. The man is inexperienced and will likely fall to the trap you wish to spring. As to Saan he is leading an attack on Dorne.”

Maegor nods and then says. “Ser Laenor, I want you to take command of our fleet, and take as many other ships as you need that can fit around 20,000 men and set sail to meet the fleet led by this Jhago fellow. Destroy his fleet and leave no man alive. Whatever other men come we shall deal with them as they come.”

Ser Laenor nods, and then asks. “Do you think more men will come Your Grace? Without Yunkai and Meeren to support him the Black Heart might not actually have enough support to truly cause trouble to the city.”

Maegor is silent for a moment and then he says. “I do, the Black Heart comes from Mantarys, and they have never had any reason to love us. They will send what men they can, and the Second Sons and other sellsword companies will jump on the wagon to attack us and take what plunder they can. Even if no threat comes from the sea, there will be a threat from land, and I mean to make sure they do not cross the walls.”

Ser Laenor nods, and then Maegor’s uncle Lord Maegon asks. “And what would you have of me Your Grace?”

Maegor looks at his uncle and says. “Lead the defence of the city my lord. Take command of the fire cloaks and the city watch and patrol the city, lead sorties out if the armies get close enough. But whatever you do, do not let them cross the walls.” His uncle nods and then Maegor dismisses the council.

Three days later Maegor watches as his cousin sets sail with the 200 warships that make of the Volanteene War fleet and waits for reports of the battle that he will wage. That news comes some two weeks later when his cousin sends word of victory over the fleet led by Jhago and the destruction of it and capturing of Lys. Two weeks after that, an army some 40,000 strong marches from Mantarys and heads towards Volantis, whilst an army some 10,000 strong led by The Tattered Prince marches from the Rhoyne. Maegor makes the preparations, has his men dig pits outside the walls of the city, and has patrols set up, so that when the armies from Mantarys are spotted, they are ready and waiting. Arrows are fired just as the moon reaches its highest point, and Maegor listens to the screams of the dying men, as they fall into the pits filled with fire and oil, and as arrows pierce them.

Once enough time has passed, Maegor dressed in silver armour with a dragon’s helm atop his head bellows for the gates of the city to be opened, and he leads the first group of men out to give proper combat to the men being led from Mantarys. The battle is short but it is bloody, Maegor swings his war hammer and feels his blood sing with the action, with every man he kills, with every blow of the hammer he feels more alive than he has done in years. He swings, and men fall, blood pools on the ground, the land in front of Volantis is a light with flame, blood and war. The Tattered Prince changes sides and destroys the rear of the Mantarys host, Maegor shatters the left of the Mantarys host, and then continues on his march.

Swinging his hammer, men die screaming, or gurgling as blood spills from their mouths and other wounds in their body once Maegor’s hammer has connected with them. He continues through the throngs of battle, swinging and crushing men, bringing them down to earth with the swing of his hammer. It does not get heavier for him as the battle wears on, if anything it seems to get lighter. The blood simply drips from it and the fighting continues, bodies continue to mount up, the right of the Mantarys host is broken and fled, and then the centre breaks and Maegor ends the battle right there and then when he kills the commander of the Vanguard of the Mantarys host, swinging his hammer left, then right, and then centre bringing the man falling down, and then he kills the man’s horse to add to the impact.

The battle for Volantis ends on the seventh day of the seventh month of the 290th year after Aegon’s Landing, with Mantarys being defeated and their leaders executed for ending the peace. The Black Heart’s allies in the east are broken and Volantis continues to reign supreme.


King Ormond I Yronwood

Dorne had done well as an independent kingdom, as of old, they no longer needed to bow down before those in the north who thought themselves more sophisticated and educated than them, and Dorne had shown time and time again that they were more advanced and better at most things than the Westerosi. Three wars had been waged by the Iron Throne to try and bring Dorne back into Westeros by force, and all three times they had failed. Gyles Stark was the main reason for that, his prowess as a god of war had been undeniable, his ability to rally men to a cause was inspirational and it was something that Ormond had aspired to for many years to live up to, having squired for the great man he had thought that he had learnt more than possible under his tutelage than he would have under his own father Prince Edgar had been a very angry man, a good warrior but a terrible father.

Ormond’s grandfather Berros had been the one to give Dorne the freedom it had so desired. Another great man that he had had the pleasure of knowing, Ormond remembered the lessons his grandfather had taught him, lessons of how a king was only as good as the people he ruled over and that it was therefore his duty to make sure that the people were always kept happy and safe, and that it was a king’s duty to know when a lord or official was corrupt and to deal with that official in the most appropriate manner, otherwise the court and the people would fall victim to pain, and pain brought nothing but suffering. King Berros had died when Ormond had been fighting in the Reach, his death had been a tragedy, a great man he had been right up until the day he had died, and Ormond had mourned his death more than he had ever mourned his own father’s death. Edgar Yronwood had been drunk when fighting some battle in the Reach; his father had developed a taste for drink in his later years, and as such had died with a bottle of wine in one hand and a sword through the bowels.

In a strange way, the cousin’s war had done its bit to ensure that Dorne would never again be troubled by the Iron Throne. After all by aiding House Osgrey in taking down House Tyrell, not only had they ensured that a more favourable house ruled the Reach they had also ensured that the new king who sat the Iron Throne did not have to worry about possibly facing more than one big army at a time, which had won them Robert Baratheon’s admiration and friendship as well as a promise to stay out of Dornish affairs, unless a common cause was needed. As such, Ormond was happy to think that his people were happy with the way things were going, there was peace and there was trade and the riches that were spreading throughout Dorne had allowed for a better way of life for the majority of the smallfolk and the nobility, something that one would have never thought possible under the rulership of the Martells, who continued to suffer through their relationship with the Targaryens and the death of their princess.

Ormond himself had married when he was twenty, with so many brothers and sisters around his grandfather had deemed it not necessary for him to wed to early, though when he had wed, he had made a match that would benefit the kingdom. He had wed Nymeria Allyrion a woman whose house had remained staunchly loyal to the Martells through the years, though with the chance of a child of half Allyrion blood becoming the next king or queen of Dorne they had suddenly changed their tune and blocked out Martell plots and won over Martell allies. When Anders had been born, Dorne had rejoiced and the tension that had been present in Dorne since Ormond’ s grandfather had taken power had ended, and now Dorne was relaxing into something known as peace that it had not truly seen for some time. Anders was a bright young lad with a bright future ahead of him, Ormond had done his best to make sure that his son and heir knew what was expected of him for when his time came. Ormond had two other children, Gwyneth who was a feisty girl, who took after Ormond’s own mother rather than her actual mother, and then there was his son Garon, who was a proud lad who would soon enough be great fighter, perhaps better than Gyles Stark had ever been.

Of course it did seem as if the gods were always keeping an eye on the Yronwoods and Dorne, and were not happy with them being in a slightly peaceful period. For there was trouble brewing on the seas, a new Pirate King had emerged, known as the Black Heart he had allied with other pirates and had begun causing havoc along the coasts of both Westeros and Essos. He had raided the coast of the Stormlands and even as close to the Reach as he could get, and had raided Bravos, Myr, Norvos, Qohor and Lys, and had struck an alliance with the slaver cities. He had come close to getting men into Dorne, but Gyles Stark in one last act of valor and bravery for Dorne had taken the Dornish fleet out to the Stepstones to fight him and had died breaking most of the fleet that had been under command of Black Heart’s second in command a former Dornishman known simply as the snake.

And yet the Black Heat was not one to give up, whilst he himself struck out for mainland Westeros he struck a deal with that filthy pirate Salladhor Saan and had Saan take his ships, some seventy of them down to Dorne where he had been engaged in a naval battle with Gyles’ son using the remenants of the Dornish Fleet. Daemon Stark had led the charge and as such there had been little to no word from Stark since then, and as such Ormond was quite worried and so had called a council meeting to discuss the situation. The council members were different to how they had been during his grandfather’s reign, the hand was someone Ormond had grown up with in Sunspear Desmond Sand the bastard of one of the Stark’s, master of whispers was a woman who knew how to get what she wanted Lady Velaena Gargalen and then there was the new High Martial Ormond’s own son Anders. “Well my lords,” Ormond began. “We know why we are all here, I would hear what news you have for me.”

Lady Velaena speaks first, her voice soft, a seduction. “Bad news from the sea Your Grace, Daemon Stark lost the battle with Saan and his life to the pirates on the sea. Saan managed to get whatever ships he had left onto shore and they are now marching through the Greenblood and towards the mainland.”

Silence and then Ormond asks. “And what are the lords near the Greenblood doing about this threat to their lands and people?”

“They can’t do anything Your Grace. It appears that some of the Orphans of the Greenblood have sided with this Pirate and his men and are leading his men through the gaps in the defences that were set up. They know how to navigate through the patrols. Soon enough I believe they will be near the confluence and might be able to challenge for Yronwood itself.” Lady Velaena says.

“So the Orphans have shown their true colours then,” Desmond says. “I always suspected they were too peaceful to be true. Well we shall have to deal with them sooner rather than later Your Grace. We must stop the pirates and the orphans from getting close to the supplies that would continue to finance their mission.”

“How do you propose we go about doing that Ser?” Anders asks. “After all the Orphans know the Greenblood better than the lords of Dorne do, they have made it their business to know the Greenblood better than the rest of us. They will see us coming a mile away, and still have time to kill a few of us before we find them. It would be madness to attack them where they are strongest, and they will not leave their boats or the water.”

“We make the pirates come to us that is what we do,” Ormond says speaking for the first time, a plan forming in his head. “Pirates are a naturally greedy lot, and they have been led far from their ships for promises of gold and plunder. The Orphans have done us a great favour by leading Saan and his men away from their ships and their strength. Maester Alleras, call the banners and tell them to march for the mouth of the scourge, that is where the orphans will lead the pirates to, and they will give them instruction as to how to proceed. We must be ready to meet them when they arrive at the entrance to the scourge.”

And so the ravens are sent out, and some two weeks later as news of the pirates advancing closer and closer to the scourge and the source of the river wealth of Dorne comes, the banners of Dorne arrive, they do not go to Yronwood instead they meet at an abandoned way station Ormond’s grandfather had built, and so Ormond counts 6,000 men, 6,000 men to deal with however many pirates and cutthroats fight beside Saan. They march from the Way Station and are there waiting when the Pirates emerge drunk and bedraggled, there is no honour in fighting a drunken opponent and yet Ormond does not much care about honour, not when his homeland is in danger. He draws his sword and shouts for battle.

Battle is fierce, swinging, bodies all jammed together in armour and sweat and blood, the scourge provides ground for attacks to be launched that see men fall down screaming for mercy, see men die from blows that seem impossible to land, the fighting wages on Ormond cuts down more than a dozen men before he receives a blow to the chest that winds him. Still he pushes on fighting through the waves on nausea that strike him, cutting down men like they are nothing more than sacks of meat he pushes on hacking, slashing, cutting and ducking. Surviving, his sword covered in blood and gore, his son fighting by his side. On they fight, cutting, hacking and slashing the body count rises.

The pirates fight fiercely, cutthroats, men who have nothing to lose and yet still they fight, and on and on it goes. Blood comes pouring into the scourge, painting it red, and blue and all kinds of strange colours in the sun. Ormond hacks men down, and then takes a battering from some pirates, and then fights through them cutting them down, and leaving their bodies in his wake. The process goes on, fighting, hacking, slashing, cutting and ducking, doing what he can to stay alive. The blows keep getting harder and harder, and the pain increases and yet still he fights, hacking and slashing through and through hacking, on he goes. The foe gets less numerous, and yet still they seem to be there and Ormond keeps fighting.

He sees the blood flowing into the river and realises that at some point he must have received more bruises and damage to his person than he had first thought. Still he will not die standing meekly by, he slashes and kills three more men and then advances forward and brings more men down with him. Their numbers are growing thinner, and thinner, and yet Ormond feels the blow to his head and he lands face down in the water, and he knows no more. It falls to his son Prince Anders Yronwood to finish off the Pirates and to kill the last one of their number Salladhor Saan. King Ormond Yronwood who reigned for seven years dies on the ninth day of the twelfth month on the 290th year After Aegon’s Landing.

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