AN: Afternoon all, here is chapter 29. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a review etc. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to PM me, or if not join my discord, the link can be found on my bio. Also please do check out my other stories and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own Game of Thrones or Percy Jackson.
( - )
Yes, he would have the girl killed later. For now he needed to focus on the most immediate problem, the Lannister's and Redwyne's were assembling a fleet to attack him.
He wouldn't allow that, he couldn't…
Laughing hysterically at that, Balon lashed out with one of his gnarled hands and emptied a flagon of wine, laughter still bubbling up from within him even as he went back to eyeing those around him suspiciously.
They were out to get him, he knew it. They were non-believers, they were servants of the Storm God… they had to be stopped. They had to be drowned. They had to be purged. Only the pure could remain, only those who believed, those who had faith!
( - )
( - )
(With Percy, in King's Landing)
The cavernous hall was silent, save for the occasional scrape of golden cutlery on gilded platters, the shuffling of servants' feet against the stone paved floor, and the quiet sounds of the dining guests, gorging themselves on food and drink.
Currently, Percy was in one of the larger halls in Maegor's Holdfast; a stout, square fortress that sat comfortably within the heart of the Red Keep. It was a keep within a keep, and without a doubt the most secure and defensible place in the entirety of King's Landing. It also happened to be where his mother had moved her private chambers to after the death of her husband, and Percy's anointment as king.
Picking up a golden goblet, Percy took a small sip of wine. It was Dornish Red, and thus went down smoothly, leaving behind a faint, delicate taste of grape and spice on his lips.
Once upon a time he had drunk this wine by the amphora full and had overindulged in it to the point at which he had lost all inhibitions and passed out, that or he simply blacked out, and then woke the next morning with a throbbing headache and his shit eating friends telling him what a fool he had made of himself the night before. Dornish Red, it was as strong as it was expensive, but yet, with his father as king, the Red Keep's many cellars had been stocked with enough of the crimson liquid to almost quench the thirst of an entire city. Such overindulgences, among others, had been what had led the Kingdom to being so indebted to the Lannisters, Tyrells, the Faith and the Iron Bank.
It had also been one of the main vices, along with the meaningless pleasures of the flesh, which Percy had often indulged in too, in his youth. It had been a necessity he had thought at the time. Something to keep him balanced out, mellow and relaxed, a way of dealing with the stress, anxiety and nightmares his stay in Tartarus had left him scarred with.
It hadn't been a healthy way of living, but it had also probably been the only thing that had kept him sane, after all at the time, as he regained cognizance growing up and came to terms with his past life, and eventual suicide down in that deep, dark Pit, he had teetered on the edge of madness.
If he had slipped, he dreaded to think what could have happened.
Fortunately, things had changed since then. Magic had begun to return to the world, and with it his old self had started to emerge from within the hollow, empty, husk of a person he had become. The pain and weariness of the past had been washed away by the soothing re-emergence of magic and his old demigod abilities.
Less fortunate perhaps, was the fact that his indulgences and the wildness of his youth -all of which he had given up soon after his father's death, when the responsibility for not just his family's well-being, but the well-being of the Seven Kingdoms and all who dwelled there too, had been placed upon his shoulders- had come back to bite him rather severely in the arse.
Placing his goblet delicately back on the polished, dark wood of the dining table, Percy once again took up his cutlery and continued to pick and poke at his dinner; a fine selection of pheasant, venison and beef, along with thick gravy, and vegetables roasted in animal dripping. All of which had been placed on a thick, bread trencher, which itself was placed upon a golden plate. It was a veritable feast of hearty, stodgy deliciousness, the kind that would make a peasant sick from the sheer richness of the cuisine.
Unfortunately, the tastiness of the meal was lost on him, as too was the company.
Usually he enjoyed eating with his family. Selfish, petty, arrogant, despicable and incestuous as they may be sometimes, just like his father's side of the family in his previous life, they were his family, and thus he loved them.
His mother had raised him well, she had loved him, nurtured him and gone out of her way to protect him from his father's drunkenness, the intrigue of the Court, and the Faith's suspicion of his mysterious powers. She was a selfish woman, and probably overly ambitious too. But she loved him unconditionally, and was as loyal to her loved ones, as he himself was. For that reason, she held a special place in his heart, and would have his continued support. This being despite her incestuous relations with her twin brother.
His uncle Jamie, meanwhile, had taken him under his wing when he was a younger man, and had taught him riding, swordplay and how to hunt. Or at least he had tried. It was not his fault that Percy had retained memories of a past life. Still, the older knight had at least helped to instil new muscle memory into him, and had gone out of his way to keep Percy safe, and to always drag him back home after he drank too much or passed out.
His other uncle, Tyrion, meanwhile, despite their cool relationship. Had also always been kind. He had often brought books on kingship, leadership and history with him when Cersei occasionally allowed him to visit, and during these visits he had often sat down with Percy, and tried to pass on what knowledge he could.
Tyrion had been patient, and had tried his best, and despite the dwarf's frayed relationship with Cersei and Tywin affecting their relationship, they had got along well enough, for the most part.
In fact they had been getting on more so of late than in the past, due in part maybe to Percy's increasing mental stability, and both of their newly acquired sobriety and propriety. With Percy's having been caused by kingship and the return of magic, whilst Tyrion's had been brought about by responsibility, and his enthusiasm with creating a canal system throughout Westeros, and an upcoming project he had recently suggested, the improvement and modernisation of the kingdom's sewage systems.
Both of which he had been making significant amounts of progress on of late. Or at least from what he had heard. With both projects, among some of the others Percy or his ministers had initiated, providing both jobs and income to the commonfolk, and a renaissance of sorts for the poor in terms of cleaner water and air, better health, more food, and new opportunities to gain useful skills in stone masoning, carpentry and the like. Skills that many had been able to learn outside of the kingdom's cramped, filthy cities, and on the sites of some of the ongoing national projects.
Shifting about some of the food on his plate, Percy continued to inspect the other diners.
Tywin was also at the table, his posture stiff and his demeanour reserved. Of his family, Percy probably liked Tywin the least. The man was hard, cold and cruel. He had all the passion of a deadfish, and he had the eyes to match. They were listless, and cold, the eyes of a killer, the eyes of a monster.
Despite his deficiencies however, Percy could at least respect the man's almost obsessive focus on family and legacy. The man might not care in the way Percy did, but he would still protect his family above all, even if that was only because of the name and legacy they carried. He was a difficult man, uncompromising and set in his ways, but still, despite his general dislike of him, there were still elements of his character that he could respect.
Sitting next to Tywin, was Kevan. Stoic and stalworthy, he was the most down to earth of the Lannisters. When compared to his older brother, Tywin, Kevan lacked ambition and drive, when compared to his niece and nephews he lacked passion or initiative. But despite that, he was solid and reliable, someone that could be relied upon to do his job, even if he lacked the innovative, ambitious mind that allowed so many others to succeed and reach new heights.
Kevan's son, and Percy's cousin, Lancel, meanwhile, was almost the complete opposite of his father. He was a listless and gormless boy, a yes-man if ever there was one. He lacked the spine and will to lead, and instead just bobbed his head and went along with whatever the loudest voice in the room demanded of him.
The same could be said of Renly, Percy's other uncle, the one member of his direct family, save for the traitor Stannis and his daughter, who was not here today. He was a simpering little, yes-man too, only he at least had the ambition to rise up in the world, even if he lacked the guts and fortitude to see his ambitions fulfilled.
That, and the man was inept. This was mostly why his seat on the Small Council was in name only, a way of assuaging his ego and keeping him compliant. When it came to the actual business of running the kingdom however, his responsibilities had been handed off to better and more competent men and women.
At the far end of the table, sitting between Tywin and Jamie, was the last member of the private family dinner his mother had hosted and thus sent the invitations out for-no doubt the reason behind his Uncle Renly's lack of invite, though strangely she had invited Tyrion which was unexpected-, and that was Percy's younger brother, Joffrey.
Spearing a piece of meat on the tines of his fork, Percy brought the tantalising morsel to his mouth, even as he looked down at the bottom of the table, at his brother.
Like the rest of his family, Percy loved him just as much now as he had when the boy was a child. He was his brother. That said, he could easily see Joffrey for the monster he was. Love and like were not mutually inclusive, and just like how he disliked other members of his family, he very much disliked Joffrey.
The boy was a thug. He was a mean, petty, immature, self-absorbed child. Percy had known that about him for a while. He was also a sadist and had, when they were younger, seemed to deride pleasure from other people's suffering and anguish.
The boy was not pleasant. Though the same could be said for their mother. In spite of his love for her, Percy was no more blind to her faults, than he was to Joffrey's, which is why he was so on edge right now.
His mother had assembled the entire family, or at least the royal family, and the extended Lannister family, or at the high-ranking Lannister's at least. Everyone, save for Myrcella and Tommen, the kindest and gentlest members of the family, both of whom were out of the city. With Tommen the current acting Lord of the Stormlands while Renly swanned about King's Landing, and Mrycella currently meeting her potential betrothed up in Winterfell.
His mother had essentially created a metaphorical lion's den in her quarters at Maegor's Holdfast, and then invited him, the only black-haired stag in the room, to dine with the lions.
No matter how hard he tried, this imagery wouldn't leave him, even as he exchanged pleasant, small talk with his immediate family, supped on good wine and ate exquisitely prepared food.
His mother was up to something.
Or at least more so than usual.
In a way he had been expecting something like this for a while. She had been too quiet of late. Previously she had always tried to be in his presence, and had often tried to offer insight, assistance and advice on what he should and should not do. Some of which, admittedly, was useful in theory, some of it, however, was less so when it came to using it in practice.
Either way, prior to him sending Tommen and Myrcella away, she had constantly been trying to interfere or lurking around the edges of the Court.
Ever since he had sent his younger brother and sister away though, as well as his middle brother, Joffrey over to ward with Tywin in Casterly Rock, she had, save for a brief initial, angry outburst, been quiet and lying low.
It had him on edge.
"So from what I've heard, the fleet will be casting off on the morrow, how do you think it will fair traversing the Stepstones?" His mother's lilting voice floated over to him from across the table. Her words and sweet tone, instantly breaking him from his inner musings.
"The fleet should be fine. It is well built, stocked and manned. The captains have the most up-to-date navigational maps of the waters, and a large number of them, and many of the sailors too, have already had experience of those waters before. I doubt there will be any issues." Kevan answered for him. His tone brusque and to the point as he took a quaff of wine and went back to digging into his dinner. "The Royal fleet is a modern-day marvel, and probably one of the finest in the known world. It would certainly be enough to give the Ironborn second thoughts. As for the pirates infesting the Stepstones, I foresee no issue."
"Not that the Royal fleet will be engaging with the Ironborn any time soon." Tywin cut in smoothly now, his cold eyes lingering on his younger brother for a moment, before shifting back to Percy. "Speaking of the Ironborn, I've recently received news that the Lannister fleet, with some small assistance from the Redwyne's fleet, have managed to force the Ironborn's reavers back to the Iron Islands."
"I take it that the Lannister and Redwyne fleets will be setting up patrols to keep the Ironborn's fleet hemmed in? Or maybe a blockade to trap them in their ports?" Percy asked curiously. Tearing his gaze away from his mother now, inwardly thankfully as he did so, that whatever ploy she had been trying, had been well and truly scuppered by his overly diligent Hand, answering the question for him.
"Indeed. Currently, the plan is to maintain a strong presence in the coastal waters along the western coast, particularly around the larger settlements, and send regular patrols through the coastal waters around the Iron Islands". Tywin replied easily, his longer, pale fingers idly playing with his gilded goblet, as he kept a steady eye on Percy.
"Why not just take the islands like our father did? If Tytan were to rally the banners, I would be willing to lead them against the Ironborn, and bring them to their knees. That way we can finally put them out of our, and the rest of the Kingdom's, misery!" Joffrey piped up quickly, an excited gleam in his eye as he looked enthusiastically between Percy and Tywin. The thought of bloodshed and carnage had seemingly awakened a passionate side of the boy.
"You're not thinking." Tywin replied, his tone a shade cooler than before. "The idea of invasion was brought up before, however it was deemed too expensive to maintain a constant presence in the Iron Islands, and too costly in terms of lives and resources to force a beachhead with the current numbers available. With the upcoming campaign, and winter soon on the horizon, it is not feasible to demand more men from the lords of the land than we already have, not when those men are needed to work the fields and bring in the harvests. No, the current strategy is more balanced and cost effective. I am confident it will work to keep the Ironborn trapped on their islands, even as we starve them of resources."
"It is using cunning and guile over raw strength. It is a different approach than is normally taken with Ironborn, less forceful, and so therefore less expected. It's probably why they've pulled their ships back. They'll be expecting a siege, or a more direct assault on them. That's also why a blockade will probably work." Jamie nodded, a slight smile on his face as he looked over at Joffrey, and tried to better explain the reasoning behind why they weren't forcing a fight with the Ironborn when they didn't have to.
"It helps that the Ironborn produce and create nothing themselves. Instead, they rely on the sea and on raiding. With limited access to both, they'll quickly start burning through their supplies, and will then be forced to do something… stupid." Tyrion tagged on.
Joffrey sent Tyrion a scowl, but said nothing more.
"I'm glad things seem to be going well. Hopefully with the Ironborn dealt with, we can focus on the campaign in the Stepstones, and on bringing the Dornish back into the fold." Percy said, swiftly bringing an end to the talk on the Ironborn. He would probably be quizzing his grandfather, and some of the other lords and ministers, about it later, but for now he wanted to avoid any contentious conversations until after this dinner was over.
"Yes, the campaign," Cersei once again spoke up, swiftly redirecting the conversation back to her initial question. "Are you confident the Royal fleet will be able to drive the pirates out of the Stepstones, and take them for the Seven Kingdoms, Tytan?"
Percy held back a frown, as he once again glanced at his mother. She was like a dog with a bone. She didn't seem to want to let this topic go, despite the fact everything was set, and she hadn't been involved at all in the planning of the campaign.
"As Kevan said, I think they'll make a good showing of themselves. The campaign itself might be a protracted one, but we should be able to create and secure a foothold on Stepstones quite easily. That in itself will go a long way to cutting down on piracy, especially after we create a forward base, and naval dock. After that, we can send reinforcements at our leisure and begin the conquest." Percy replied, his eyes on his mother now as he tried to work out just what she was after here.
"A foothold? Is that all you think you can achieve?" Cersei asked, her tone carefully controlled to appear merely curious, even as the intent underlying her words was clear.
"Just like what we've talked about before, about besieging the Iron Islands, besieging the Stepstones will be a daunting task. There are walled cities on some of those islands, and the inhabitants know the currents, landscape and waterways between the islands like the back of their hands. In order to take the islands, we will need to siege the cities and starve them out, or we will need to craft and assemble the siege weaponry we brought with us, which again will take time to build and move. Some of the islands and settlements will be easier to pacify than others. But as a whole, the Stepstones won't fall in a day, nor a week, or maybe not even in several months. But with time, tactics and the right amount of pressure, they will fall." Kevan replied resolutely, his tone polite, yet firm. The kind of tone a doting uncle might use with their young niece when explaining a seemingly simple principle to her.
"Thank you, uncle. But I wasn't asking you, I was asking my son, Tytan." Cersei bit out sharply, sending the older man a withering gaze, before looking back at her son.
Around the table, several of the guests tensed up, or started to shift about uncomfortably.
"I have little to add on to what Kevan has already said. The fleet is large and well equipped, and well manned. It has competent commanders, and should be able to conquer the islands. But like Kevan said, it won't necessarily be quick. Despite Qyburn's attempts, we do not know exactly what forces the different cities are harbouring, or the size of the pirate fleets lurking in the archipelago. We have rough estimates that we gained from spies, traders and traitors, but they are still only rough. Until the expedition has gotten a full grasp on what they will be facing, the commanders will take a slow and cautious approach." Percy explained calmly.
"Knowledge of your enemy is key." Tywin added abruptly, his cold gaze lingering on Cersei. "Only a fool would rush into battle without knowing what he will be facing. A wise man, and a wise king, picks his battles, just as they listen to the counsel of their more experienced and learned advisors."
"If that is the case, then why did you rush into invading the Stepstones? Surely you should have spent more time getting the lay of the land?" Cersei shot back, her attention still on Percy as she ignored her father's curt words.
"We found out as much as we could using as many different sources as we could. The problem is things keep changing, and our sources are not always reliable. It also doesn't help that the pirates infesting the Stepstones aren't a collective, and instead are formed up of dozens, if not hundreds of different groups. If we had waited until we got the amount of information we wanted, we would have been waiting till the end of days." Percy finished. Listening to his mother's words, he could understand her incredulity. They might not be going in entirely blind, but nor did they have the full picture. Still, sometimes you have to take big risks, to get even bigger rewards, and the benefits from taking the Stepstones and cutting down on piracy in and around Westeros, were great.
"If it would really be that difficult, why don't you just go yourself? You brought down the Eyrie, the Stepstones should be just as easy?" Joffrey piped up again.
Percy took a sip of wine at that question before calmly answering. "You have a point, I could do that, and if I did then there is a good chance that the conquest will go far quicker and more easily. But for now, I will hold back, and see what support, if any, the fleet actually needs once they make land."
"Why not?" Joffrey pressed.
"Yes Tytan, why not? You were blessed with incredible abilities, why not use them, why not show the world your power, and the power of our family?" Cersei added, as she drained her goblet and then snapped her fingers at a nearby servant expectantly, ushering them over to refill her cup. As she spoke, Percy could see a slightly unsettling gleam in his mother's eyes as she stared at him.
"The king's place is in the kingdom. The kingdom's armies are there to serve his will, not the other way around." Tywin interrupted bluntly.
"Yet for once, Joffrey brings up a good point. Tytan could end the campaign in a matter of weeks if he went personally. It would likely spare the lives of many soldiers, and reduce the burden on the treasury. Wars are, after all, such expensive things..." Tyrion piped up again.
"Like I said," Percy said, his voice harder than before. "I will be relying on the fleet for now to drive the pirates out of the stepstones, and create a foothold on the islands. After that has been achieved reinforcements will be sent, and if I think it's necessary, I will lead them. Do not think that I have not thought of this, for I have. Power, though, should not be used recklessly, nor should those in the kingdom rely on me to solve all their problems. If that were to happen, then people would become dependent, they would innovate less, and stop trying to solve their own problems, and as such the growth of the kingdom would slow, and our enemies would see weakness, a weakness that could be exploited."
"It is also about legacy. We do not yet know if his children will be born with the same gifts. If they are not, and the kingdoms have come to rely on Tytan's powers, then the line will be in danger, and our enemies, like Tytan has said, will see weakness and close in on us." Tywin's stern voice broke in, his gaze now fixed fiercely, almost proudly, on Percy. "Power, if you have it, should be exercised fleetingly, so as to make a point. If you use it too often, it loses its impact. There is a reason people still sing the Rains of Castermere, even after all this time. There is a reason the wrath of House Lannister is feared across the lands."
Hearing his grandfather's words, Percy felt a cold lump form in the pit of his stomach. Tywin Lannister was a monster, a true psychopath, one that knew what he did was wrong, heinous even, but did it anyway, all under the justification that it was for his family's legacy. He honestly didn't know how to feel about the man himself, not only supporting him, but suggesting that they had some similarities too.
An uncomfortable silence followed Tywin's proclamation.
A silence that Percy soon broke, as he decided to change the topic again, only this time to broach an even more uncomfortable topic.
"Speaking of ongoing events. I feel now is the time to announce that I will be leaving the city and heading north to Winterfell." Percy said simply, his goblet once again in hand as he then took a fortifying gulp of wine and then waited for the reaction.
Once again, silence dominated the table for several seconds.
"And why would you do such a thing?" Cersei asked quietly, her green eyes boring into him. "This is the first time you've mentioned such a journey?"
"Yes, and I thought you'd realised, Tytan, that a king's place is on his throne, and not gallivanting across the country on a whim." Tywin added curtly, his tone turning cold once more, as this time he backed his daughter's side of the discussion.
"And you all seem to forget that although I am family, I am also your king." Percy replied, his tone practically frigid as he locked eyes with his grandfather. From beneath his resting hand, he could feel a thin layer of ice starting to form on the polished surface of the table around him, even as the air got a mite colder than it was before.
Tywin and Cersei both stiffened at his tone, and at the sudden drop in temperature. Lancel and Joffrey meanwhile seemed to wilt in their seats, even as Kevan and Tyrion stopped dining and seemed to lean forward in interest.
Of all of them, Jamie was the only one that remained calm.
"It will not be a long trip. There will only be a small party travelling, and we'll be taking the fastest ship we can north to White Harbour, and then ride straight for Winterfell. It should take barely more than a month, a month and a half at the most." Jamie said. Out of all those at the table, he was the only one who had been aware of Percy's travel plans, even if he was not aware of the purpose.
"By the time I return, the fleet will likely have just made land on the Stepstones and secured a beachhead, and the Ironborn will have either surrendered, or still be contained by the Lannister and Redwyne fleets. Everything else, the Small Council can deal with in my stead. The kingdom won't collapse because the king has decided it is necessary to travel to the north of his lands for a month." Percy added on, his gaze falling onto Kevan now.
"Yes, I don't foresee there being a problem. The Small Council managed to run things for years, without any input from the king, while King Robert sat on the throne. As such, I don't see a problem with the current Council, which I would say is far more competent than King Robert's were, to keep the kingdoms running smoothly in your absence, your majesty." Kevan bowed his head.
Tywin however narrowed his eyes, as too did Cersei.
"Well, if you are so dead set on this venture, then I suppose I have no choice but to support you." Cersei finally said, her expression still tight, and her voice sour. "I will see to it that your voice and your wishes are still acceded to, and that others don't try to take advantage of your absence."
"Yes, if you are to go ahead with your journey north, then I too will remain in King's Landing longer." Tywin added, his voice calm, even as his eye gained a calculating gleam. "I would be happy to act as your voice on the Council in your stead, grandson."
Looking at the pair, Percy once again felt a shiver of cold run through him. They might be family, and he might care for them, but he didn't trust either of them for a second. Already he was thinking of what he could do to minimise the influence they both would have. "I'm sure that won't be necessary. I trust uncle Kevan implicitly, and although I'm sure he would appreciate your wise counsel grandfather, mother, for the moment I think it would be best to leave the Small Council as it is. Changing it now, just prior to my absence, might cause more confusion than good."
Percy could feel his chest tighten slightly as he finished his diplomatic response. Already he could see his grandfather's eyes narrow a fraction, even as the old lion nodded his head, seemingly agreeing with his judgement. His mother, meanwhile, didn't even bother to hide her dissatisfaction.
"I'm curious," Tyrion suddenly spoke up, thankfully breaking the lingering silence that had followed Percy's last statement. "You've not yet explained what your reasons for travelling north are? Especially when lords and ladies both great and minor have been flooding into King's Landing over the last week for your upcoming wedding. "
"That's because my reasons are my own." Percy responded bluntly. He didn't dare tell any of them just why he was headed north. Not with his mother and grandfather here. In fact he hadn't even told Jamie why, just in case he let slip something to Cersei. "Either way, I will be leaving in a week or so, not long after my marriage to Margaery. As Jamie has already said, I won't be gone long, and I will be travelling light, with only a few Kingsguard and trusted swords."
"I'm sure your future wife will not appreciate your absence." Tyrion said mildly, the gleam in his eye almost salacious now. "Not so soon after you have consummated your union."
"I have already spoken to her of my plans in a roundabout way, and she was supportive. Though I think she would be less so, were I to be absent for a prolonged period of time." Percy replied, his gaze once again on his malformed uncle, even as his mind drifted to the upcoming wedding. It was only a week away, and already dignitaries and lords from other Houses were travelling down to King's Landing to attend. The timing was perhaps not great, but alas as things do, everything both good and bad, seemed to be coming to a head at the same time.
"Ah yes, the wedding." Cersei said, her sharp gaze once again on her eldest son. "From what Renly has told me, Tommen will be returning to King's Landing to celebrate the joyous occasion with us. But I've yet to hear about whether Myracella will be travelling south with the northern contingent."
"I've already spoken to Robb on the matter, and unfortunately she won't be coming. She has only been in the north for a few weeks, and the journey up there was a long and tiring one. I felt it was unfair to demand that she return south again, only to then, once again, travel north. So I've given her leave not to attend." Percy said, not making eye contact with his mother now, even as he felt her glare. "Likewise, Robb Stark has elected to stay in Winterfell to rule, and get to know his betrothed better. With the length of time it would take to get south in a large group, and the previous unpleasantness of their last visit south, the Stark's have also elected to send a host of the lords of House Umbar, Karstark, and the young Brandon Stark as their representatives. I accepted the proposition, as I can understand the pressure Robb will be under, with him having just taken up his father's mantle as Warden of the North."
"An acceptable enough decision. With the shadow of their last visit hanging over them, a large contingent of Starks would be little more than a distraction on the day of the wedding. Better that they be unseen and dismissed." Tywin nodded dismissively, once again digging back into his food, even as he swept aside the ongoing conversation, thankfully before Cersei exploded, and instead redirected it to a matter he wanted to talk of. "Speaking of ongoing events, however. I have heard a rumour recently that the Targaryen girl has joined up with the traitor Stannis Baratheon, and a high ranking Magister from Qarth, and that together, they have sacked several cities on Slaver's Bay using Dothraki screamers, dragons and Stannis's rebels and mercenaries, and have begun to form themselves a vast slave army."
"Yes, I heard the same." Percy nodded stiffly. "It seems Stannis has been putting his stolen fleet to good use."
"You should have hunted him down before now, while you had the chance!" Cersei suddenly snapped.
"Do you think we haven't expended at least some effort to track Stannis's actions, and make plans to deal with him? Plans, niece, have already been drawn up to deal with the Targaryen girl and her allies, and some have already been put into action. Unfortunately, however, there were, if you will remember, other more pressing issues to deal with at the time." Kevan once again calmly interjected. "Furthermore, the resources it would have taken would have been great, and the end result would likely have been a host of boats at the bottom of the sea, both ours and Stannis's both, and thousands of men lost on both sides."
"We've also not had the resources to track Stannis down properly. He left with the fleet under the cover of night, without warning. We heard from Varys's birds, limited though their numbers are in Essos, that he had made port in Pentos, and then later in Volantis. Neither of which were hosting the Targaryen girl at the time. Instead, she was out in the grass sea with the Dothraki and two baby dragons, far away from the sea and Stannis." Percy replied, his tone tired now. This is a conversation he had had several times before. "We hadn't thought that the two would make an alliance, especially considering the history between their Houses. That, and at the time the Targaryen's Dothraki husband was dead, and she was left alone in the wilderness with barely a handful of followers. "
"But yet they have joined up, and now they are carving out a kingdom in Slaver's Bay, and building an army with which to attack the Seven Kingdoms!"Cersei replied, "If you had taken my previous advice, and hunted Stannis down like the traitorous cur he was, he would never have become the threat he was now. Instead, you were more concerned about letting that Tyrell tart lead you around by your cock!"
The guests at the dinner table stilled.
"Mother, you go too far." Percy said softly, his tone once again cold, and the surrounding air likewise frigid. So much so that he could see those closest to him sliding back in their chair, even as their breath started to mist in front of them, and frost began to creep along the table, ensnaring their goblets and food in its icy grip.
Cersei sent him a stubborn look.
"My decisions so far have been based on the advice of my Council and of what I myself could see. Everything I have done, I have done because I believe it was the right thing to do. Like Kevan has already said, we have been aware of the Targaryen girl and her dragons for a while, as well as her recent alliances and butchery in Slaver's Bay. We have made plans, the biggest of which involves the conquest of the Stepstones, and the creation of naval and trading bases on the archipelago, all of which will allow us to track and when possible, destroy Stannis's fleet before it even comes within sight of the Seven Kingdoms."
"Tytan-" Cersei began to speak.
"Do not think of me as an idiot, or that I am ignorant of threats to my people. Just because I do not share my thoughts and plans with you, does not mean that they do not exist. I would also like that you not insult my future wife, and your future daughter, like you have." Percy pressed on, the icy claw gripping his stomach clenching.
"Tytan, I-" Cersei tried again, only to be stopped by Percy's raised hand.
"Uncle Jamie, I think my mother is tired. She needs to rest. Would you please see her to her room?" Percy pressed on. He could feel the blood pumping through his veins as he saw his mother's expression go from angry, to shocked, to hurt, and then back to angry again.
"I am not tired." His mother replied, a note of anger definitely distinguishable in her tone as she glared at him.
"Maybe give her some valerian root to help her sleep." Percy pressed on. He was starting to lose his patience now. Normally he didn't mind people questioning him in private, he encouraged it even, as being challenged on things gave him another perspective to consider. But his mother had gone too far.
"That is enough Cersei, I believe Tytan has the right of it. You have drunk too much wine and allowed your tongue to get the better of you." Tywin spoke up next, shutting down Cersei's continued protests as Jamie rose from his seat, an uncertain look on his face, as he then began to guide the scowling and angry woman away from the table and deeper into the Holdfast.
Looking around the table, Percy could see both Joffrey and still silent Lancel looking uncomfortable, even as Tyrion clearly tried to hide a smirk. Kevan and Tywin meanwhile just looked stoic, as Cersei stiffly left the room. Leaving an awkward and uncomfortable silence behind in her wake.
"Hmm, this is some great wine. We should have meals like this more often." Tyrion cheerfully broke the silence.
Gazing over at his merry uncle, Percy fought the urge to roll his eyes, as he instead thought about what had just happened, and hoped against hope that it didn't come back to bite him in the arse.
( - )
Standing on a balcony and looking out over her new army. The Unsullied stood resolutely at attention, their shields, armour and spears gleaming in the mid-morning. Stannis's men, meanwhile, were hectoring and bullying the less disciplined, former slaves turned auxiliary soldiers into formation. Taking all this in, Daenerys felt a sudden thrill of excitement running through her.
It had been so long since she had felt excited or hopeful, that the feeling was almost unfamiliar to her. Not since Jorah had died, leaving her alone in the world, had she felt this safe and hopeful for what the future held.
Xaro and Stannis had both come through for her. They had won her an army as they had both promised. Xaro was now her Hand, and dealt with the treasury, logistics and organisation, taking upon himself also the role of Master of Coin and the Master of Whispers. Stannis meanwhile, was her Master of War, and the general of her army and commander of her fleet, roles he had gladly taken up alongside the role of Master of Law and Master of Ships. Pyat Pree, the leader of the Warlocks of Qarth, was now her Master of the Arcane. As for Melisandre, the last of their group, she was now the Master of the Faith.
Together the four of them had formed her Small Council, and with their help she now had a budding armada, supplemented as it was by the captured war vessels from Astapor. She also had a growing army, with more than ten thousand Unsullied making up the core, alongside thousands of Stannis's soldiers, Xaro's mercenaries, and her own remaining Dothraki followers. That, and they had the ever increasing number of former slaves that had joined up after her sacking of the city.
Daenerys had to hold back a wince at that thought, her hand absentmindedly moving to her side to caress the horned head of one of her dragons.
In places the city still burned, the stench of the smoke only adding to the rotting odour of thousands of dead bodies, many of which were still waiting to be gathered up burnt.
The sacking of the city was the one dark cloud on her bright horizon. It was not as bloodless as she had imagined or hoped for.
Thankfully, Xaro had taken on the task of burying and burning the dead, and salvaging what they could from the city. Stannis, meanwhile, was hunting down former Masters that escaped the purge, and instilling the rule of law and discipline into those that remained.
She did not envy either of them their chosen tasks.
Placing her hands down on the warm stone balustrade, Daenerys continued to survey her army. It was big, but not as big as the one Drogo had promised her brother. It was not yet big enough to take the Seven Kingdoms, or to pose a threat to the usurper, Tytan Baratheon, may the gods curse his name.
No, they needed it to be bigger, and to do that they needed more men and resources.
Already she had posed this problem to her Council, along with her solution.
There were three major cities in Slaver's Bay; Astapor, Meereen and Yunkai. These three cities formed the backbone of the slave trade in Essos, and each of them were home to many tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of slavers. Astapor had already fallen, and from its ashes they had salvaged a navy, a large amount of gold, tens of thousands of new soldiers and supporters, and enough resources to continue their campaign. As such, her suggestion to the Council was to continue on to the other two cities, sack them, and take everything they could.
Her Council had heartily agreed, which is why her army was already being formed up, and her new soldiers were being drilled and taught the basics they would need to survive. Her Dothraki meanwhile were running rampant through the territory collecting as many horses and new conscripts as they could. Xaro's men, meanwhile, were building portable siege weapons and prepping for the journey ahead.
Soon enough, they would be leaving here. Leaving this monument to pain and misery as little more than a giant, empty tomb for the foul Masters; men, women and children, that had dared to enslave others and treat them like property.
Looking out over the fields, and at the sea, Daenerys's eyes narrowed slightly against the glare of the sun. In the distance she could see a large, dark, war galley approaching the harbour, its big black sails billowing in the wind.
"You look tense, my Queen." A smooth voice interrupted her musings, the sudden voice drawing her attention away from the ominous ship in the distance, as she instead turned and looked at the speaker. It was the Red Priestess, Melisandre.
"Melisandre, I… I was just thinking is all, nothing more." Daenerys replied softly, her eyes downcast now as she tried to avoid making eye contact with the intimidating and fervent redhead. Melisandre intimidated her, even now, after all these months. There was something about her fervour, and her passion, that made her nervous.
"I see, I can imagine you have much to think about of late." Melisandre nodded, walking forward and taking her place at her side. "The world is changing. For one such as you, one that is so intune with the magic in the land, I am sure you can feel it too."
Daenerys blinked in surprise at her words, her mouth opening to reply, only for it to shut as she couldn't think of what to say in response to that bizarre comment.
"I too feel the growing terror. It is strange to think of, really. For so many years we have known that it was coming, and prepared for its arrival. Now that is here however, the eternal night, and the coming of the great enemy, I too feel fear fluttering away in my chest." Melisandre continued softly. "We have to be strong, though, My Queen, and place our faith in the Lord of Light, R'Hllor. For it is only through our faith in him, that we can stand against what is to come, and slay the Dark One's herald on this world, Tytan Baratheon. It is through faith that we will succeed. It is through faith that we will place you on your rightful throne, with the Azor Ahai by your side, ready to face the eternal night and the monsters that come with it."
At her side, Daenerys could feel her dragons getting impatient. They had grown even more recently, and now they were close in size to a small horse.
"Yes, your children can sense it too. They are born of fire and magic. They have an intrinsic connection to R'Hllor, just as I have, and just as you have." Melisandre nodded.
Daenerys felt her gut twist at that thought. Melisandre, she knew, had been busy lately extolling the virtues of her religion and converting all she could to the faith. Almost everyone she knew of gave in to the woman's preaching. After all, those that resisted, or refused, were either ostracised. Or, from what the rumours said, just disappeared.
For Daenerys personally, she found the woman's rhetoric interesting, but not entirely convincing. What she did appreciate however, was the woman's power, and the way she was able to create and manipulate fire at will. It was fascinating.
Turning away from Melisandre now, and looking back out at the black ship, her eyes narrowing as she saw other ships from the armada moving to intercept, Daenerys came to a decision. "I… I will admit that I don't know a lot about R'Hllor, but…" Daenerys turned back to face her. "I think I would like to know more if you will teach me?"
The smile that broke across Melisandre's face at her words was both terrifying and charming in equal measure.
( - )
(At the Wall)
Standing atop the Wall with Jon and Benjen at his side, Ned Stark looked out over the stark grey landscape in concern. His brow furrowed as he narrowed his eyes against the cold, blustering, sleet filled wind.
"The Lord Commander should have been back by now." Ned said, brushing snow out of his beard as he turned to look at Benjen.
"I agree." Benjen nodded. "But it's possible they've been delayed by the storm."
Ned nodded at that. Benjen had a point, over the last few days the weather at the Wall had been getting progressively worse. The wind was colder, so much so that he had started to order extra braziers set up and more men to go south to cut down trees and bring back more fuel.
Licking his lips and tasting the fat he had rubbed on them to protect them from the cold, Ned nodded. Nobody could have foreseen this storm, not even someone as seasoned and experienced as Jeor Mormont. Likely he had been caught by surprise too, and so had to seek shelter to wait it out.
"Maybe, but I don't like it. I think we should increase the number of men standing watch on the Wall, just in case. If this Mance Rayder has as many men as you think, it could be that they ambushed Jeor and slaughtered him and his men." Ned replied, shaking his head. He wanted to think positive, but this place seemed to sap the positivity from a man's spirit and replace it with just cold, empty hopelessness.
"Could be, but I doubt the old bear would be taken down that easily. I say hold off until the worst of the storm is over. Until then, though, Ned, you have command of the Wall." Benjen shouted, pitching his voice far louder than normal to be heard over the growing fury of the storm.
"Father, I could always get together some men, and try to find a sign of the Lord Commander?" Jon offered.
"No," Ned shook his head. A scowl on his face.
"You've not the experience yet, boy." Benjen replied.
Jon scowled at that. "I've been up here for more than a year. I'm one of the best swords up here an-"
"And that doesn't mean squat beyond the Wall, as you most surely know." Benjen shook his head. "You've never been beyond the Wall when it's like this, boy. It's like nothing you've ever experienced before."
"Besides, if we hear nothing back from the Lord Commander in the next week, I'll be sending you south to Winterfell. The new Warden of the North, Robb, will need to know if the Wall has just lost a thousand men and its Lord Commander. So, too, will the king in the south! I'll send a raven too, but if it's still like this, one might not make the journey!" Ned added on. He was almost shouting now as wind, snow and ice swirled around, and buffeted him and his two companions.
"I've never seen it like this before, Ned!" Benjen shouted again.
"Aye, I think Winter has come," Ned grunted, "And this one, I think, will be harsher than any winter I've lived through before!"
( - )
(On the Iron Islands)
Standing on the shore of Pyke, Balon Greyjoy could barely hold in his giggles as he looked out across the bay and saw the non-believers' ships patrolling the distant seas. His raiders had been attacked, and their captains had been driven back to port will cowards, and were now being kept there. They had been trapped like fish in a barrel.
It was almost funny really, especially when he had captains and lesser lords whining at him, demanding that he do something, that he order the armada out and engage the enemy. Not that they had actually waited to hear his response. Instead, several of them had already ventured out, only to be surrounded and either sunk, or boarded, by the accursed Lannister ships. He didn't know where the non-believers had got their ideas from when they retrofitted their war galleys, but whoever it was, was visionary when it came to naval combat.
More giggles wracked his hunched over body at that thought, even as he looked down at his slimy hands. Idly inspecting as he did the black veins that now criss crossed them, the darkness of the veins standing out quite starkly against the pale, milkiness of his flesh.
These Lannisters and those Redwynes, they thought themselves the rulers of the waves. They thought themselves better than him.
Looking up from his hands, Balon once again looked out at the bay, only now he didn't stare at the distant ships, but instead at the dozens of bodies floating in the surf, another giggle of delight tearing itself free from his throat as he did so.
From behind him, he could feel his loyal soldiers twitch and shift uncomfortably. They had probably understood why had done what he had, when he demanded they take the rebellious captains that were staying in Pyke, in their sleep, after all examples needed to be made. They had probably been conflicted but understanding when he commanded the struggling men, and one woman, to be drowned in the bay in the dead of night.
Now, though, he suspected they were confused as he continued to wait out here with them through the night and into the early hours of the morning, staring at the pale, bloated corpses.
They didn't understand. They lacked faith. Fortunately he did not.
"My Lord…?" One of the men piped up uncertainty.
"Shshshshshshsh!" Balon gleefully shushed, his dark, almost completely black, eyes glimmering as he raised a gnarled, slimy finger to his chapped lips. "Watch, and remember…"
In the water, one of the bodies started to twitch.
The men behind him once again shifted, and he heard some distant muttering, all of which he ignored as he once again focussed on the bodies.
The twitching body had started to thrash, twist and writhe, in the shallows, the water splashing and spraying around it, even as the other bodies started to move and twitch in concert with the first one.
"What is dead may never die!" Balon howled, his eyes fixed on the first body as it stopped jerking, as one of its pale hands, the veins criss crossing it completely black, instead slapped into the wet, shingle beach, even as it began to pull itself up and out of the water.
"But rises again, harder and stronger!" The men behind him dutifully answered. He could hear the fear in their voices, just as he could smell the scent of terror wafting off of them.
The first body continued to pull itself up the beach, its eyes pools of pure black, and its flesh pale and covered in goose pimples and seaweed. Its long brown hair was matted, and fell across its face in a lank, salt encrusted curtain.
"What is dead may never die!" Balon cried again, his own black eyes gleaming with enthusiasm as the body pushed the lank brown hair out of its face, revealing a cold, ghostly pale face. Its skin was so pale it was almost translucent. This only made the black veins and blood vessels that flowed beneath its skin stand out all the more prominently.
"But rises again, harder and stronger!" Yara Greyjoy, his daughter, rasped out seawater and black bile dribbling down from her mouth as she stood up and waded out of the ocean. Behind her, Balon could see her fellow captains doing the same.
"But rises again, harder and stronger!" Balon echoed with a giggle.
The Drowned God was with them now, in ways he had never been before.
( - )
AN: So what did you think? Ominous tidings and all that. Shit hitting the fan, old plots thread coming back, or being tied up. There is a lot of stuff happening. At this point we are past the two thirds of the way mark. Please leave a review, comment etc. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to PM me.
Also I am on a discord with a load of other writers, so if you fancy popping over to ask questions or offer suggestions about this story, or any of my other ones, or to find new authors you might not have come across yet, please feel free to use the link in my bio.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you later.