While the army was on the move, Tyrion rode next to Tommen at the head of the column. Deciding that she didn't want to be cooped up in a stuffy carriage, Margaery rode on Tommen's other side.
Tyrion observed the two of them as they rode together. The way that they spoke, the small gestures that they made and the glances they shared.
The pair may not be in love, he decided, but there was mutual friendship and respect. Many marriages, Royal or otherwise, had been successful on less.
"I feel bad for abandoning King's Landing.", Tommen said.
"Such dedication to your people speaks well for you." Tyrion remarked. "However, we also have to be practical. Our armies would not have gotten there before the Stormborn's."
As for me, Tyrion added mentally, I don't give a shit for that city. Or, for the ungrateful bastards that live in it.
Tommen's voice broke him out of his thoughts. "The Queen and I have been discussing things," he said, formally. "This may not be the best time to ask this, but there may not ever be a better time."
"Now that Grandfather is dead, I would name you, Tyrion Lannister, as Hand of the King."
They both were prepared for Tyrion to look shocked. They were not, however, prepared for him to look positively stricken.
Margaery and Tommen traded a glance. "Is something wrong, Uncle?", Tommen asked.
Slowly, almost apologetically, Tyrion said, "My wife's duty lies in the North, I have interests in Braavos and I am Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. All of which require at least some of my time. I'm afraid that my absences would make for a poor Hand."
Outright refusal of a King was a bad idea, even if said King was one's nephew. He stared down at where he clutched the reins and was saved by inspiration.
"Why only one Hand?", Tyrion said slowly. "Why not two?"
Puzzled, Tommen blurted, "What!?"
"Lords have two hands. As do Maesters and merchants. Even peasants." Holding up his own and wiggling his fingers, Tyrion grinned at the other pair and said, "If they can have two hands, surely a King can have two Hands."
It was an audacious thought, going against centuries of tradition. But, the Little Lion certainly never lacked for audacity.
Slowly, as it blossomed in his mind, he began elaborating on his idea. Two Hands of the King means that the burden can be shared. As Tyrion travelled, he could take care of much of the Crown's duties while seeing to his own, both in the farther reaches of the Seven Kingdoms and in Essos. Meanwhile, the other Hand would stay close to the Iron Throne, overseeing difficulties within the Court.
Tommen thought the concept through, mentally looking for flaws. "Having two Hands could create a dangerous rivalry."
Despite his generally pleasant nature, the experience of politics had already force-fed a certain amount of cynicism into him. The moment that the words left his mouth, he grimaced ruefully and added, "Not that King's Landing is currently without dangerous rivalries."
And, all three of them shared a grim chuckle at that.
The more Tommen examined it, the more he liked the idea. "Who would you suggest for the other Hand, Uncle?"
Tyrion nodded at Margaery. "Your Queen."
Now, it was Margaery's turn to look surprised and shocked.
Olenna had always taught her to take a more subtle role with power and politics. Let the men feel like they're in charge while you quietly influence them with helpful suggestions behind closed doors. Becoming the Hand of the King would put a huge target on her back and most of them did not die well.
"Still," Margaery admitted to herself, "The same could certainly also be said about the fate of Queens."
Also, as Queen, regardless of what she did, her greatest recognition in history would be giving birth to the next generation of Kings. But, Hands were chosen on their talent and wisdom. It would be good to be measured by what she carried above her neck, rather than what she produced between her legs.
Pride warred with Prudence. In the end, Margaery said, "We should wait until after the Battle to say anything. If we lose, it won't matter. If we win, victory will make the announcement more palatable."
The other two nodded. Her point was both practical and politically savvy, underscoring the rightness of choosing the Queen for the office.
The Mother of Dragons chose to bypass King's Landing and meet the Giant of Casterly Rock's Army directly. His forces were the last real challenge facing her. Destroy them and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms would submit.
In addition to strategy, Daenerys was curious about this little man with the big reputation and wanted to meet him personally. This interest was heightened when a raven arrived, inviting them to dine.
A week passed as the two forces drew closer together and word spread about the banquet that Tyrion was hosting for his enemies.
At this point, despite the fact that everyone was weary of bloodshed, everyone also knew that battle would not be avoided. Both sides had been victorious too often and victory has it's own momentum. One does not go from triumph to bending the knee without a fight.
The true purpose of the meeting was curiosity. In the past few years, legends had been breeding like rats. The impossible had been done over a dozen times and both sides were left wondering about their opponents. Dragons, Krakens, Armies of the Dead, Rains of Fire and Steel. What was the truth or just a tall tale?
Like the the previous banquet, the agreement was that Tyrion would choose the location, set everything up and withdraw to a respectable distance. Then, Daenerys would send in a few scouts, make certain that everything was safe and move her people in. Once they were settled, Tyrion would come in with his forces.
Daenerys settled into her chair and waited for the Giant to arrive.
At least one legend was proving to be true. Judging by the smells of what was being prepared, Tyrion's head cook was the miracle worker that everyone said she was.
Among the other dishes being prepared were several large sharks roasting away, a process that the Dothraki were watching with fascination. The idea that such creatures lurked in the depths and waited to eat the unwary added to the awe and unease that they felt for the ocean.
Finally, the Giant's forces appeared over the horizon.
And, as they drew closer, Daenerys's eyes widened in bemused shock. "What is That?!", she asked, incredulously.
In the aftermath of the Battle of the Twins, Shagga demanded the cock-shaped battering ram as part of the Hill Tribes's payment for fighting.
Tyrion not only agreed to give it to him, he also included a bonus. Two huge rounded drums, five feet across and covered in brown bear fur.
Shagga took one look at them and nearly split his sides with laughter. The word "Symbolism" may have been lost on him, but he knew a rude joke when he saw it.
"Funny, Little Lion," he said as he wiped his eyes. "Very funny."
In the years that followed, the Ram and the Drums became prizes of importance and highly fought over by the various Hill Tribes.
The tradition evolved into a three-day Festival held during the height of Midsummer. Competitions included knife and ax-throwing, wrestling, boxing (Not much distinction between the two. Both generally just involved two people beating the Seven Hells out of each other), storytelling, farting (Points given for smell, duration and artistic endeavor) and drinking.
The final and most important contest was the Little Ram. The best man of each tribe would heft a twenty foot long wooden dick and toss it for distance. The winners took possession of the Ram and the Drums for an entire year and earned serious bragging rights.
It was the one time of the year when traders and minstrels were welcome. And, on occasion, even an Ironborn or a Wildling would show up to try his luck.
As the Giant's forces approached the banquet site, the Hill Tribes had pride of place in the vanguard. Despite the fact that there where no fortifications and no need for it, they insisted on carrying the Ram with them.
Swaggering in the way that only men with a 30-foot penis can, they carried it on their shoulders and strutted along to the beat of the two kettle drums.
The drums, in turn, were each transported on wooden frameworks by four men, one to each side of the Ram and near the base. Two young lads pounded furiously away on the swaying drums as the warriors marched.
The Stormborn's Armies howled with merriment and catcalls when they saw this. And, Daenerys herself couldn't fight against the dirty smirk that formed on her lips.
And, that was only the beginning.
Stomping along, taking one step for everyone else's six, the Giants eyed the enemy and casually hefted clubs bigger than each Dothraki was tall.
Tyrion and Sansa had already honored their promises to them and had formally deeded a huge chunk of the North to Wun-Wun and the rest.
Even as he handed over the land, the little man had bluntly told them, through a translator, that he couldn't guarantee that they would keep it.
"Only a idiot makes promises for what can happen fifty or a hundred years from now and it takes a bigger idiot to believe them." Tyrion paused and added, "However, as long as I live, this is yours."
His raw honesty impressed them in a way that no sheer strength could and they were more than ready to fight the invaders.
Both territories and disclaimers were also given to the Wildlings, so they were on hand to fight as well. Having just defeated a Force that had terrified them for generations, they light-heartedly regarded this latest campaign as nothing more than a pleasant excursion.
Even the Dragons failed to impress them. Tormund eyed Drogon, who was crouching off to the side of Daenery's forces, and dismissed the great beast with a shrug. "Big," he admitted with scant praise, "But, we only have to kill 'em once."
The Knights of the Vale carried themselves somewhat separate, arrayed with stiff dignity as the self-appointed carriers of Honor and Tradition amongst all the barbarians and foreigners. Although it was more about pride than bravery, they also did not flinch when they saw the dragons for the first time.
The Men of the Riverlands sent an army as well. Small in size and led by both the Blackfish and Lord Edmure, they had the most to prove out of all the forces. They owed Tyrion a great deal and were determined to pay back the debt with interest.
The Lannister forces were led by the Lion's Company and they had the quiet fearlessness of men who had fought both men and monsters and had never been beaten. Besides, they knew that their Lord had a few ideas.
As the varied ranks and file came to a stop, the leaders broke off and began approaching the tables. A low buzz broke out among the Dragon Queen's Captains as they evaluated the first sight of their opposites.
The scruffy fellow with the ready knife and the pleasant smile of a killer and the huge man with the huge axe, they had seen those types among mercenaries that they'd fought against. The lean dark one and the peacock with the fancy clothes, they were said to be good fighters as well. But, even good fighters can die.
They were not quite sure what to make of the large woman in armor and the shorter dark girl that traveled at her side. It was rumored that the Rulers of the North could change into monstrous eagles or wolves. No one was sure if they believed it or not, but the cold and feral look in the younger one's eyes made it a real possibility.
And finally, at long last, they got their first look at the Giant.
A low chuckle broke out when they saw the Dwarf and it grew in intensity when a dark-haired youth helped him out of the saddle.
It petered out as he walked closer, as both face and armor were scarred from past battles. Furthermore, he walked like he was ten feet tall, carrying the kind of assurance that can only be found in a Fool or a King. And, he didn't look like a Fool.
Almost as an afterthought, the actual King and his Queen stepped forward as well and everybody was seated.
Before anyone could say anything, Tyrion lifted his goblet in salute to Daenerys and proclaimed, "On behalf of my King, I bid The Breaker of Chains, her people and everyone else welcome."
"And, I would suggest that we postpone any serious debate until we have had our fill. My cook has produced marvels and it would be a shame to sour our appetites and not do it justice."
Daenerys decided that it would ungracious to argue and agreed with a Queenly smile. Plus, she was bloody starving.
As the courses were brought out and the day turned into evening, talk was exchanged about current events and the upcoming winter.
Past battles were dissected, half in interest and half to guess what might be done by the enemy in the next few days. Everyone on Daenery's side was fascinated by the Night King and the White Walkers. And, Tyrion and his crew were vastly amused by the Dragon Kites used as a distraction.
The final dessert was snow brought from the North, mixed with cream and strawberry jam and blended until smooth. A simple, yet opulent dish.
Amid the chorus of spoons scraping the bottoms of bowls, Tyrion straightened in his chair and addressed everyone. "Now that we are finished, we must, unfortunately, address the matters at hand."
Daenerys interrupted, "I have been giving some thought to this and I have a solution. Some of the past Kings have had more than one wife."
She paused and slowly licked the last of the dessert off of her spoon, then continued. "If I marry Tommen, it would avoid more bloodshed."
In the silence that followed, Daenerys had to stifle the urge to laugh, mostly at the expressions on Tommen's face.
He didn't look like a King. Instead, for a heartbeat, he looked like a teenager elated at the idea of having two beautiful women to share his bed.
Then, that look faded and replaced by a few moments of pure Guilty Husband who's wife was going to be seriously pissed off.
Margaery hid her emotions much better. However, underneath the mask of noble training, you could she was not happy. She could accept it, but she damn well wasn't going to like it.
Then, after the first surge of desire was past, Tommen's eyes turned serious and shadowed. Without hesitation, he asked Daenerys, "If we marry, despite the three of us sharing the Titles of King and Queen, it would be you who would be the ultimate ruler?"
"Somebody has to be the one with the final yes or no." Daenerys tried to soften the ultimatum by adding, "As my advisors will tell you, I am willing to listen to objections and can be swayed by rational argument."
For a long moment, Tommen just looked at her, clearly weighing all of his choices. In the end, he just shook his head and said, "I am sorry, but I must refuse your offer."
No one likes to be shot down, less so in front of an audience and Queens least of all. A fair amount of frost was in Daenerys's voice as she replied, "So young and already so enamored of power. The Iron Throne means so much to you, that you would prefer to die rather than give it up?"
Tommen's reply was quiet, but neither soft nor hesitant. His eyes were clear as he looked at the woman who would kill him without a second of regret. Despite his young age and short reign, the burdens of Kingship had already begun to leave their mark.
"It isn't about the Throne, it is about who sits on it." Tommen paused for a moment to marshal his thoughts. "When my brother died, my Grandfather and I spoke about what makes a great King. Strength, Piety, Justice, these are all important. But, Wisdom is what makes a truly great Ruler."
Daernerys narrowed her eyes. She had been expecting opposition and insults at this meeting, but it still stung. She asked, angrily, "Are you saying that I am not a wise Ruler?"
Almost apologetically, he replied, "I have seen you show very little of it." Off to the side, Drogon shifted his weight and Tommen glanced at him nervously. Then, he steadied himself to finish what he was saying.
"Your claim to the Iron Throne is that your ancestors held it. And, that you have three dragons. That is not Wisdom, that's Fire and Blood. For too many years, the Seven Kingdoms have seen enough Fire and Blood, we don't need more."
"Even if I do bend the knee, then what?" He gestured towards her army. "Your Dothraki have come this far, do you think they will accept victory without any burning and pillaging? As well as the other promises that you've made to your other supporters. We face a long winter and we need to rebuild. Your first acts as Queen will be to loot and destroy. If you truly wish to spare the people of the Seven Kingdoms, it would have been wiser to stay in Essos."
Tommen paused and the silence among the listeners was absolute. "I am not fighting for the Iron Throne. I am fighting for the Seven Kingdoms. For my Subjects. They deserve better than you."
All eyes turned to Daenerys and everyone had the same thought. Is she going to have Drogon roast him now or wait until later?
To her credit, she took the insult well. With a regal tilt of her head, The Breaker of Chains replied in a level tone, "Most that defy me do it either out of greed or foolishness. You do it for honor and that deserves a measure of respect. After you are dead, I will have a monument raised in your memory."
(Off to the side, Tyrion grinned in spite of himself. Coming from a family that prized veiled threats and backhanded compliments, the Queen's response was almost Lannisterian.)
Having pushed his luck as far as he wanted with a dragon nearby, Tommen just gave her a abrupt nod, stood and said, "Until tomorrow, then."
He held out a hand for Margaery, she rose out of her chair and the pair walked back towards the horses. Everybody else on that side of the table gulped down their wine and followed in the King and Queen's wake.
The next day dawned clear and cold.
Scouts reported to Daenerys that Tyrion's forces were already moving into position.
The enemy's battle formation was a mass of siege engines, Catapults and Scorpions, located in the center with the Knights off to one side and the footsoldiers off to the other.
The plan was fairly obvious. The Giant expected the Stormborn to use her dragons as an opening gambit. He would then engage his siege engines in response, kill her dragons and ruin her greatest strength. After that, it would be a much more conventional battle of men and steel
Not a bad plan, she mused to herself. However, the dwarf had made his Scorpions bigger and stronger. Also, in response to her dropped spearheads, he had them mounted in wagons with triple wood reinforced roofs. All of which made them much, much clumsier.
The extra weight was going to cost them dearly. All she had to do was fly around and take them from behind. Then, both men and machines would be charcoal before they could change position.
The Invader's camp was abuzz with controlled chaos as everyone prepared to attack. Daenerys walked among the thick of it, issuing last-minute orders before she was off to lead her dragons.
Then, an unusual noise cut through all of the others.
By experience, Daenerys had found that it was better to feed her Dragons before battle. Otherwise, they might get distracted, stop fighting and slake their hunger by eating some the fallen soldiers. To the side, in a well-cleared space, all three crouched over what was left of some cows.
Rhaegal made the noise again. A high-pitched sound which, in a lesser creature, would be a whine of agony. Beside him, Viserion did not make any noise, but shivered the way an animal will when it's in extreme pain.
Unaffected, Drogon stared at his two siblings in confusion as they slowly curled themselves around their bellies.
Daenerys stared in just as much panicked bafflement as she tried to think of something to do, anything to do, that might help her children.
Then, as quickly as it had started, it stopped. All the tension went out of the two great beasts as they went limp in death. The last breath hissed out of them. And, against the red blood that was still on their faces from their feeding, a black froth seeped from the corners of their mouths.
Some weeks previously, Tyrion had met with Qyburn.
Jaime had told him all about the man, both good and bad. Bluntly, the Little Lion told him that the bad was almost enough to have the man executed on the spot. But, that he had one chance left to save his neck.
"I need a poison strong enough to kill a Dragon."
For his part, Qyburn took the sentiment in stride, having dealt with similar expressions of disgust for his research in the past. And, he rather relished the intellectual challenge.
The poison was easy, actually. He had chemicals of which a thimblefull would (And had) kill an entire whale. The tricky part was to get the Dragons to eat it. Especially in the midst of an enemy camp.
In the end, he placed the poison inside a thin glass bottle, wrapped it in clean cloth padding ("To keep it from breaking too early", Qyburn explained.) and operated on a cow, sealing it within the animal's flesh. And then, repeated a dozen more times on more cattle.
Everybody half expected Drogon to howl in rage over the bodies of his dead brothers. Instead, he closed his eyes and keened mournfully.
All the rage belonged to his mother. Daenerys looked at Rhaegal and Viserion's corpses and shook with anger.
"Where-", she said hoarsely. Then, stopped, tried to get herself under control and started again. "Where is the one who brought those cows!?"
"Here, your Majesty."
All eyes turned and regarded the one who had answered the question.
It was a little old woman, plain clothes, plain face and unremarkable save for the two belts of flasks that crossed her chest. She was just like any one of a million peasant woman, ground down by a lifetime of work. It was due to her being such a non-entity that she was able to get to within twenty feet of Daenerys.
She locked eyes with the Stormborne and said, "My grandchildren will be made noble for this." And, she raised her fist and smashed the center flask.
There was a roar and a flash of light and the last thing that she remembered was Jorah's panicked look as he grabbed her by the shoulders, Then, darkness.
A few minutes later, Daenerys woke up face down in the dirt, eyes blurry and a high-pitched whine in her ears. Pushing herself up, she spat out blood and dust and tried to figure what just happened.
As her vision cleared, the first thing that she saw was Jorah lying on his side, his back a oozing ruin.
The memory of him shoving her out of the way of whatever the attack was came surging back and she crawled over to him. She cupped his face in her hands and, when he felt Daenerys's touch, Jorah smiled despite the pain.
"Khaleesi." She saw the words form on his lips rather than heard them. "Love you."
And so, Ser Jorah Mormont died.
Off to the side, Grey Worm mopped at a gash in his arm, helped by Missandei who was unharmed. Prince Oberyn, who had not been at the scene, had arrived and was busy shouting orders, having the wounded tended to and bringing order to chaos.
Rage and grief consumed Daenerys and fueled the Targaryen Madness that lurked in her blood. And, she didn't bother to try to fight it.
Ignoring the pounding in her skull, the Breaker of Chains lurched upright and unsteadily walked over to Drogon. The touch of his hide gave her strength and she managed to slowly mount.
The sight of Daenerys perched on her dragon brought the eyes of all those present to her. And, she shrieked, "DOTHRAKI, MOUNT! UNSULLIED, ASSEMBLE! GO! FIGHT!"
"KILL THEM ALL!"
With that, both Queen and Dragon launched themselves into the air and went to seek bloody revenge.
Tyrion saw them coming and, with a deep breath, spurred his mount past the siege machines and stopped about fifty yards in front of his forces.
He wanted a drink more desperately than he ever had in his entire life. And, after a moment's thought, realized Why not? Who's going to tell me not to?
Taking out a flask from his pocket, he pulled out the cork and took a long and satisfying swallow.
Fueled by wine and bravado and knowing that every eye was upon him, Tyrion dipped his head and spread his arms wide, giving a mocking bow of welcome to the rapidly approaching Mother of Dragons.
Daenerys was close enough to see this and her rage burned even hotter. However, her madness did not blind her to the fact that this was a trap. The Half-Man was taunting her to get her within reach of the Scorpions.
She had Drogon veer off in a wide bank, circling around the enemy. Coming in from behind, they dipped lower and gained speed for the attack. Daenerys felt the great dragon start to tense as he inhaled in preparation for the first fiery blast.
Then, one of the Giants that she had seen the evening before smoothly rose from where he had crouching. He drew the string back on a massive golden longbow and released an equally sized arrow at the attacking pair.
The huge Dragon desperately tried to twist out of the way of the oncoming missle and simultaneously spat out a blast of fire to try to incinerate it.
If he had done one or the other, he might have survived. But, both proved to be the great beast's undoing. The gout of fire missed the arrow completely and his last-second motion wasn't enough to dodge. The steel arrowhead sank deeply into the flesh where the wing met the shoulder and Drogon roared with rage and pain.
Helplessly, he tumbled to the ground. Momentum carried him past the ranks of soldiers and siege engines and into the empty plain beyond. In an effort to spare his wounded side, Drogon impacted heavily and threw Daenerys from her perch.
The Breaker of Chains slowly got up from where she had landed. Unlike before, every moment after impact was crystal clear and most of her body was stabbing or throbbing in pain. She knew that, between the explosion before and the fall just now, there was something terribly broken inside of her.
As she watched Drogon bite at the arrow in his side, a flickering shadow from above was the only warning before several more shafts started landing. Launched from the Scorpions, three of them hit the Dragon directly and sunk in deep.
Daenerys staggered towards her last child, who was mortally hurt past the point of sound or movement and could only pant in agony and wait for death.
She fell against his side and felt his rough hide against her cheek. "Don't worry", she murmured. "It will be over soon." More flickering shadows heralded the launch of a second round from the Scorpions. "The pain will be done and we'll fly again."
With that final thought, Daenerys of the House Targaryen closed her eyes and let oblivion take her.
The Dothraki saw her crash and howled deafeningly, increasing their speed and bearing down on the line of defenders, determined to avenge their fallen Khalessi.
The Lion's Company, Tyrion's men, hefted their long spears and trotted through the lines of siege engines. The long hours of both training and war gave them a smooth and sure quickness. By the time the Dothraki Screamers had covered two-thirds of the battlefield, they had formed up and stood ready.
The only thing that had truly worried them was the dragons. Now that those great beasts were dead, what was left was just another day of work.
Tyrion, still on his horse and still clutching his flask, was slightly behind their formation. He gave his lads a salute with the wine and took (To the accompaniment of laughs and whistles) one last drink before tucking it away.
Just as the Horde was nearly upon them, the Giant's men slapped the spearheads against the ground in a rippling series of well-practiced moves and they all burst into flames.
Granted, the Dothraki had foreknowledge of this tactic. And, in the process of fighting alongside the Mother of Dragons, both men and horses had become more used to flame and smoke.
But, a few months of experience was not quite enough preparation. Especially when it's razor sharp, blazing away and being thrust directly at your face.
To an outsider, the charge looked fearsome. But, the Bloodriders felt their mounts flinch and falter. And, the attack did not have the true force and momentum that it should have had.
In one deafening, frozen moment, the two forces clashed. Tyrion's men held fast and their battle lines were not broken.
Then, the Knights of the Vale and of the Riverlands struck. Like an armored wave, they thundered in from the left flank and knifed into the enemy formation.
They did not have the calm assurance that the Lion's Company had. Or, the bloodthirsty joy that drove the Dothraki onward. Instead, the Knights fought with the grim mercilessness of people who had seen enough destruction, were heartily sick of it and wanted simply to put an end to it all and go home.
Under ordinary circumstances, the Dothraki horsemen would have danced around their heavier counterparts and cut them to ribbons with their mounted archers. But, the crucial few minutes that they had been stalled by the spearmen was enough and now they were being decimated.
But still, the enemy was not finished. By now, the Unsullied had arrived and their obvious intent was to provide an opportunity for the Dothraki to break away, reform and re-attack.
And, once again, these were not ordinary circumstances.
The Unsullied felt their hearts sink within him as they saw the foot soldiers running towards them.
The Wildlings and the Hill Tribesmen, a howling mob of untrained and unwashed savages, these were viewed with contempt. The score or so of Giants that led them was another story. Tyrion had clad them from head to toe in triple layers of chain mail and boiled leather and they were proof against spear, arrow or damn near anything short of a siege engine.
Grey Worm saw them approach with a sense of fatalism, seeing they they carried massive clubs of wood that he couldn't pick up, let alone wield. He tightened his grip on his spear and made himself ready. The one thing that he truly had ever possessed was his honor and, even in the face of death, he would hold on to it.
One sweep of a club snapped a dozen spears like they were straws. The returning backsweep crushed a half-dozen or so Unsullied. The Wildlings and Hill Tribes poured into the gaps that were created and wreaked havoc on the invaders.
At the other end of the battlefield, Oberyn let out a short sigh of sorrow and disappointment. Pushing his emotions aside, he then began issuing orders.
He had stopped his own forces from joining the madcap charge. After all, if Daenerys and Drogon had been successful, the Dornish would not have been needed. If the opposite was true and the Little Lion had something up his sleeve, the reserves would be vital in counter attacking.
Sadly, the latter rather than the former was needed. Oberyn ordered the horsemen to flank the enemy, draw the pressure off the other forces and they can use that to get their arses out of the crack that they were currently in.
One of his sub-commanders asked, "What of our archers and footmen?"
"We don't have time to break our camp and start an orderly retreat. Set up defenses with the rest of our men and we will send to Tyrion for a negotiation."
Oberyn saw hesitation on the faces of his men. He snapped, "Daenerys is dead! Her dragons are dead! We can't take King's Landing and, even if we did, who's going to sit on the Iron Throne?"
Of course, nobody volunteered for that task. Instead, his men rushed to carry out his orders and, as he stood alone, Oberyn took a deep breath and allowed himself a moment of reflection.
"Not me," he said to himself in a bitter undertone. "Elia was killed because of it, Daenerys died chasing after it. I wish that boy luck, sitting on that cursed piece of metal."
The aftermath of the battle was surprisingly anti-climactic.
The Dornish counter-attack had been bloody and brutal. Prince Oberyn's troops were fresher, but Tyrion's had the taste of victory in their mouths and were determined not to lose it.
Deep down, the Dornish Prince had been worried that pride would keep the Dothraki and Unsullied from leaving the battlefield.
However, the death of their Khaleesi had convinced them that Fate had turned against them. They may have hated every step that they took away from the fighting and back towards their encampment. But, they still chose to leave rather than staying and dying.
It was late in the day, nearly dusk, before a negotiation could be held. Once held, the terms were short and sweet. What was left of the foreign invaders would leave and never return. Oberyn, his family and his followers would join them in exile.
There was some talk about payments and reparations from the Dornish, as a further punishment for the attempted coup. But, Tommen (Carefully advised by Tyrion) shut that down very quickly.
"You could have used my sister Myrcella as a hostage, but you chose to send her to safety instead." The King lifted his goblet of wine and saluted Prince Oberyn with it. "Such generosity and restraint can only be paid in the same way."
Oberyn did not speak in response, but merely smiled and nodded in agreement.
Then, the two drank wine together to seal the deal. And, an unsteady peace was forged.
Jorah opened his eyes and there was no pain. No sharp agony from fresh wounds or lingering aches from old scars. Not even the tired soreness that one would feel after a battle.
He sat up and looked down at himself, seeing that his armor was gone. Instead, he was clad in simple clothes, well-worn and comfortable.
It triggered a memory in him. The times in which he was a young man and all the duties were finished for the day and Jorah would go hunting or fishing with his Fath-
"Here, boy!" A familar gruff voice broke into his musings. "You've got a bite on your line."
Jorah looked over and saw his Father, Jeor Mormont. The Old Bear was clad just as he was, sitting at ease on a large rock that jutted over the edge of the sea and watching over two handmade fishing poles.
All at once, he knew where he was. He was back on Bear Island, during one of their rare summer days.
He was Home.
Jorah got to his feet and ran to his father, almost stumbling in his haste. Jeor rose to his feet as well, took a few steps and embraced his son in a bone-crushing hug.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry," Jorah kept repeating.
Eventually, after a minute or two, Jeor gruffly said, "Enough of that, boy. Sit."
They both sat down on the rock. By now, Jorah was getting past some of his amazement, enough to ask, "Where are we? And, how are you here?"
Jeor picked up his pole and twitched the line a few times before answering. "You heard that I died?"
Seeing his son nod in response, the Old Bear continued, "And, you know that you also died?" Another nod.
"This is a place of Judgment for what we've done in our lives. I've already been Judged, but you can stay and help others through their own trials, if you wish. So, here we are."
Jorah mentally absorbed this, not truly surprised at this turn of events. In a way, he had been preparing for this moment for decades. Quietly, he said, "I am ready to face Judgment, Father."
"You don't have to."
Startled, one more surprise on top of the many that had occurred, Jorah could only stammer out, "Wh-what do you mean?"
"To move past this place, you must understand that what you did was wrong, feel genuinely sorry and choose to never do those acts ever again." Jeor gave his son a level gaze. "For years, you have hated and hurt yourself for the things that you've done. You've paid for your sins, many times over."
"Then why am I still here?", Jorah asked, after a pause.
"Because you still have something holding you to the life you once led."
It took only a half-moment before Jorah understood. "Khaleesi," he said, closing his eyes, picturing her beauty and feeling the familiar helpless, hopeless love surge through him.
"Aye, there it is." The Old Bear gave his son a searching look. "You've got two choices at this point. First, you can let go of her and move on." The searching look turned sorrowful and he continued, "And, I can see that you won't. So, it will have to be the second."
"More complicated." Jeor shifted himself off the rock and with the toe of his boot, drew a line in the dirt. "There are other places. Just as this is a separate place from the world where we lived. Other worlds, other lives. Other choices."
Off of the end of the line, he scraped two more. One going left, the other going right. "Somewhere, there's a Jorah that chose not to marry that spoiled bitch of a wife. Somewhere, there's a life where he chose honor over beauty."
Internally, Jorah winced a little at the slightly acid undertone in his Father's voice. His transgressions may have been forgiven, but sure as Hell not forgotten.
"You choose the life, go back and try again." Jeor sat back on the rock and checked his line again. "You won't remember your other life. Maybe, a few vague dreams or the sudden sense that you've been in that place before."
"How much of an influence your old life will have on your new one, I can't say. Maybe a stray feeling at just the right moment will be enough to change everything."
An odd look passed over Jorah's face as a thought struck him. "I've have had that feeling happen to me before. Is this the first time that I've tried again?"
The Old Bear shrugged and replied, "Don't know."
Jorah nodded and sat down on the rock next to his father. They fished in silence for a while. Then, the younger man began to speak of his life as a mercenary in Essos. Not all of it had been bad and Jeor listened with interest to the tales of hard-won battles and foreign lands.
There were long silences as well. But, they were comfortable silences as Jorah mused over the events of his life and debated with himself about what he would do differently.
Then, as the day began to turn to dusk, Jorah quietly said, "I've made my decision."
Jeor laid his hand on his son's shoulder and gave him a reassuring pat. "Good luck, boy.", he replied, gruffly.
Jorah closed his eyes...
Waking in his narrow bed, Jorah rubbed the last scraps of sleep out of his eyes.
There had been the oddest dream, but when the man mentally reached for details, it all just faded quicker and he was left with a general feeling of unease.
Of course, that unease may have to do with what he had planned for later today.
Today was the marriage of Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. Jorah planned to offer his fealty to the young woman. Meanwhile, he would be spying on her and sending reports back to King Robert. Possibly, even planning her assassination.
A wild feeling surfaced at the back of his mind. It would be better, it whispered, if he was honest from the start. Admit to the girl that you had been sent to spy. And, with the admission, make your fealty genuine.
Jorah shook his head, dismissing the thought. He had yet to actually lay eyes on the woman. Plenty of time to make the choice later.