AN: Welcome one and all. Boys and girls. Children of all ages! The Wyvern and the Warhawk are back once again, this time with the much requested continuation to the beloved One Who is Many!

AtW: You should probably be 13+ to read this but. well, eh. Anyways, as usual, I'm dead tired. Wyvern keeps me writing at all. And the more love a story gets, the more I feel obligated to continue it. So love bomb the crap out of this thread if you want more of it. Otherwise I might decide Hemingway was right. Not really. Yes really. (Legally) Not really.

CW: Just ignore him. He gets cranky when he's tired.

AtW: Believe it or not, this isn't even me at my worse. I'm like one of those snickers commercials, but the sugar just makes it worse.

CW: Now then, on with the show!

One Who is Many - Chapter 2

"Oof!" The quarterstaff slammed into her stomach again and Ophelia almost got lifted off the ground. Instead, she rolled with the blow as much as she could and pushed through what would certainly be another bruise.

Bringing her own staff up, she lashed out, driving the blunt end straight at her sister's head. Obara simply snorted, snapped the staff up to her little sister's fingers, and forced her sibling to snatch the weapon back lest she lose a digit. Not that it was a great loss for the former villain slash hero slash god slaying warlord. No, she was still good at planning ahead.

So, as she jerked her hand back, she also lifted the weapon, bringing it horizontal compared to her body, and twisted into a downward swing.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't elegant, but it did catch Obara across the shoulder.

"Huh. First time you've hit me all day. Now, let's see if you can do it again!"

Grinning more than a little viciously, the older girl lashed out with a two handed swing, forcing the would be witch to block, before shifting stances mid strike. Using her now superior positioning, she pressed forward, muscle against muscle, and proceeded to knock her smaller, less physical sister to the ground. And then proceed to jab the point of her, thankfully blunt, staff into her throat.

"Dead, little sister."

Only… slightly annoyed, Ophelia made a fly land on Obara's face.

"And you're dead too."

This made the other girl chuckle.

"Now, now. Just because I've been whipping you like a disobedient stable boy doesn't mean you get to pout. I thought you out of all of us would be able to lose gracefully, no?"

Sighing, she nodded.

"I am the one who asked you to train me."

"Good. Then I won't have to kick your butt while you're using your powers too."

Taking Obara's proffered hand, the young woman let her older, and significantly less sweaty, sister help her up. After a clap on the back, the eldest of the Sand Snakes deemed their training session complete and took the fallen staff up from the dirt and sent her sister away with a shooing motion.

"Go. Get the food ready. I'm sure Tyene has not poisoned it, but you can never be too careful."

Giggling, said sister called over from the campfire where their assigned men at arms were currently listening to her play a harp.

"Oh you wound me sister dearest. I assure you, I only poisoned your portion. And only so badly as you wound cute, little Ophelia!"

"Hah! Then I would fear for my life, If our sister was not so kind. For we are alike in that we repay ten times the injury given. And I left… more than one bruise on her body and her pride."

Currently nursing said bruise, Ophelia considered getting up from her tree and flipping off her siblings for making sport of her. Instead, she just tightened the belt around her loose, linen breeches and hobbled over to the small stream they'd camped nearby.

Water was very, very good, she decided.

Even if the lessons could stand to be a bit kinder on her bruises.

Really, Ophelia hadn't meant to drop her healthier habits. It just so happened that she dedicated so much time to her studying and experimenting, as well as later on doing commissioned work for nobles and the like, that there was very little free time left for her to do anything else.

It was only when traveling that the former villain didn't have to worry about her new responsibilities.

Now if only her sister did not take them as an opportunity to use her as a sandbag.

Not that she wasn't thankful.

Just sore. Very, very sore.

But the change in scenery helped. Rather than being battered around the dunes of Sunspear, Ophelia took comfort in the light breeze and partially covered skies. The biting chill contrasted with her warm skin.

A lifetime of living in more agreeable weather hadn't prepared her for living in Dorne. In fact, it had actively hindered her for nearly a decade before she finally managed to adjust to the scorching heat and the near absence of wind. She couldn't imagine how much harder it would have been if she hadn't been born to the Martels.

Just the thought of not having her oils and private bath sent shivers down her spine.

'Note to self. Invent plumbing and the shower when we go back home.' She was no handywoman, but the Taylor part of her would be damned if she was forced to look at a chamber pot one more time.

Turns out it's the small things that you miss the most.

Like showers, toilets, night lamps that didn't melt.

"Ophelia Martel, saving the world one bathroom at a time." She snorted back a laugh. Having no doubt in her mind that had she been one of those insane geniuses who could replicate technology from nothing, she would have already made a cellphone or something insane to change the world.

But she wasn't.

She had been a fighter first and something of a bookworm second.

Also a warlord. But she didn't feel like conquering Westeros anytime soon.

Once had already been enough.

So that left her with little alternative but to become a scholar and inventor.

Whatever she made, she had to apply whatever knowledge she had to the information she had access to in the present. Hence why she had gotten her hands into as many books as she could since very young. Why she demanded tutors and mentors from all forms of subjects.

Getting a feeling from how far this world had advanced. And what she could do with what they had.

Which was, in fact, an immense amount. Despite the severe technological stagnation they seemed to suffer from, it was more of a cultural malaise than an inability to innovate. In truth, dozens, if not hundreds, of small areas had reached levels that had been at its modern equivalent or even, in a few rare cases, more advanced.

Horse breeding, for example, had lines that had been cultivated for literally thousands of unbroken years. Older than the Seven Kingdoms! And while the masters of beast flesh didn't have names to give to things like genes and phenotypes, they had a hilariously advanced ability to judge traits, the odds of passing them along, and how to both care for a breeding population and exploit it to its utmost.

Wool softer than silk, horses that could challenge slower cars, grape vines that were older than the United States had been.

And they still didn't have anything approaching steam power.

In fact, things like water clocks were so rare she'd been politely told no when she asked her father to purchase one. Something she was confused by, that he refused her not that she was being told no, but was very, very quickly answered when the price was explained.

'And I still don't understand this level of diffusion!'

Some of the free cities were beginning to push the level of technology she might have expected from the renaissance area… but only in ways that didn't threaten the overall status quo.

Improvements to metallurgy, but not how to harness black powder.

Knotwork and sailmaking to rival even modern innovations, but not the advanced cartography or the concept of stock companies and proper trade organizations to exploit it.

Or closer to home. How people knew how to harness water power for wheels, but not really bothering to push beyond that.

'Or I suppose how the Starks supposedly use hotsprings to heat their castle, requiring an understanding of water pressure, plumbing, and functional piping and the materials needed. Along with everything needed to maintain and repair that.

'Note to self, make sure their pipes aren't lead.'

Frankly, something told her that someone - or something - was holding technology back. But there was nothing she could think of doing that world wide. Even if she didn't totally trust an organization as powerful as the Maesters, the utter absence of a system of colleges and academies outside of the Citadel just… didn't make sense.

There was no royal school of engineers, no particularly studious lords organizing or donating a castle or anything. And while there were small, local schools, none of them had anything approaching great thinkers or widespread influence.

"Dwelling in your own thoughts again, sister?"

Jumping slightly, Ophelia looked up from her reflection, realizing her knees were screaming at her as she'd sat there - lost in her thoughts.

"I… uh… yes?"

Tyene just snorted.

"Indeed. We called for you. I had thought you might be bathing, considering your rather fastidious nature."

Shaking her head, the former villainess didn't take the obvious bait of her sister's suggestive grin.

"And you'd been so good. Hadn't teased me at all since we'd left Sunspear."

"Of course not. There'd been zero privacy and you're mine, little sister."

There was greed in Tyene's tone, not lust, and that's what confused the girl who had once been Taylor Hebert. She knew what had happened with Victoria and Amy Dallon, mindrape turned mindbreak and all that wonderful drama. But what confused her wasn't the blatantly incestuous actions, the Martells likely wouldn't be more than slightly offended and their father would probably just shrug.


It was the little things.

The searching gaze, the probing questions, the seemingly random suggestions that Tyene knew more than she was letting on.

"Well, I do appreciate the exclusivity. But I hope you know that they execute people for what you tend to do in the less open parts of Westeros."

That got a bitter laugh from the girl in question.

"If only it were just your body I wanted! And besides, if the queen does it under the king's nose, I'm sure we'll be fine."

And there it was - another thing that might get her sister into trouble. Outside of pretending to be a gentle wallflower who could do no wrong, Tyene had a barbed tongue and wasn't afraid to sting others with it. At least when it wouldn't get her executed. But that was a close thing these days.

"Do pipe down about that while we're staying over with the King. I'd hate to give them an actually viable reason for wanting my head on a pike." And given what she'd learn of the royal family, that might just become an actual concern.

King's Landing was a pit of snakes.

Yes, she was aware of the pun.

"Like we'd let them. Father would sooner go to war than let one of us come to harm." Obara snorted derisively.

Nonetheless, it wasn't a place where they would be allowed to do as they pleased. The walls had ears and eyes. Every stranger down the street could be and likely was a spy. If she had to make another comparison, Ophelia would compare the city to a multi-layered chessboard with half a dozen players and thousands of moving pieces.

The coming of the Martels meant that they would be considered either pieces or a new player.

She knew Tyene would relish the chance to play. And would probably rope half of their family into it, given the smallest chance to have a bit of fun.

The former would see them used for the means of another. The latter would see them executed or driven away to preserve the tenuous balance of power within. Anything could shift the balance and cause the place to tumble into a downward spiral of self destruction.

'Somewhat like Brockton Bay.' She realized belatedly.

Only instead of Gangs, you had Houses.

And instead of the PRT, you had the Crown. About as effective as most heroes had been in her world too.

"Games always have losers and sometimes no winners. And I don't think any of us want to see what a pyrrhic victory looks like by House Martel standards.

It would be so easy to do as she had before. Establish a powerbase, usurp one of the major players, work to overtake dominion over her new territory and establish boundaries amongst the remaining players. Really, if Ophelia had ever intended to join the Game, she wouldn't have spent the last decade and a half trying to increase the quality of life for people.

Rather she would have taken over, gotten one of her relatives on the throne, then secluded herself again to work in peace. She easily slip back into the role of Skitter, the Warlord of Brockton Bay.

It would have served as a nice trip down memory lane.

Even easier now that she had an entire family with resources behind her.

'Give five months… seven tops. I'd have the run of the place.'

What could a knight do against a swarm of insects? What could poison do against eyes that watched every hand? What could an army or a castle or all the ships in the world do against the very air around them turning black as night while God's wrath poured out upon them?

"Must you spoil my fun, sister mine?" Tyene's hand came to rest on the inside of her thigh. Not high enough for impropriety - they were sisters and bastards of a Prince, no one would dare imply such a thing without hard evidence. But it was high enough that Ophelia knew what her sister was doing.

"When your pretty little neck is on the line, yes."

She took her sister's hand in her own and sighed.

"I'm quite serious. Who knows if there are any other mages running around out there? We are at Old Town, after all, and the Citadel is supposed to have a pet caster that's spent decades learning every scrap of lore he can. Why wouldn't there be a hundred others like him, hidden amongst the nobility? And there is the Spider. A man like him, from the East, with as many connections as his name implies, are you telling me he doesn't practice magic?"

"You're not Uncle, so please, sister, try not to drown in the sorrows of the world."

Obara trundled over, carrying several plates and a wineskin, before settling on the softest patch of grass she could find.

"And besides, Father always says Uncle gives himself ulcers to go along with his gout because of all the brooding he does."

"He better not. I struggle with his demands as they are." Ophelia chuckled. She only enjoyed as much of man's favor as she did because he went through her creams and potions like a dying man. Well, that and she was far, far less trouble than his own daughter.

The three chuckled, agreeing that their uncle was a bit dour for the normally high spirited clan they all belonged to. However, after that, the former warlord spent more time eating and drinking than she did speaking. Hunger was more important than gossip.

For now at least.

Oldtown was just as Oberyn remembered it.

Cramped and humid with a healthy dosage of salt.

The few times he'd taken the time to tour the old seat of power of the First Men, the prince had been more concerned with drinking and touring its less… reputable districts than he had been on appreciating the markings of history few men cared to remember.

Weaving between the various streets and alleyways with effortless grace, Oberyn felt alive as he took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the port city. From the tart smell of pomegranates being sold at the market, to the sweet perfume of merchants and the highborn who pursued their wares.



Trinkets and jewels from far away land whose names he never really cared to recall.

Oldtown might be old, but it burst with a vigor few places could match.

People were much more pleasant too. Not nearly as much greed cloying people's heads. Not a whole lot since King's Landing became the most important city in Westeros. Old Town, under the watchful eye of House Hightower, prospered without having to concern itself with the workings of a court.

His favorite part, however, were the taverns.

A trading hub as big as this was home to one of the largest collections of exotic drinks, the likes which would make even the hardiest of northmen swoon. There was stuff here he didn't even know the name of, let alone how it was made or where it even came from.

Something he needed to bring up with dear Ophelia one of these days.

If his prodigious daughter somehow managed to uncover the secrets of brewing the stuff, he would never have to worry about the dent buying it would leave in his coin purse. Well, that and they would have another great contribution to add to her list.

'Of course, for purely altruistic motives.'

It was for that exact reason… and one more that he found himself waiting at the Golden Trunkard. A small, out of the way tavern which was close to bursting at the seams. Even at this hour of the day you'd find more than enough people willing to drink themselves into an early grave.

He was tempted to start himself.

Unfortunately, business came before pleasure. And there was something he needed to take care before he could indulge his parched throat.

A rather stocky, bulldog like man trundled over to his table, a mug of something cold and sweet smelling in his hands. For a moment, the prince considered taking a sip, surely a Mage wouldn't refuse the father of a witch? But this particular maester had a shrewd look in his eyes and a firm grip on his tankard.

"Afraid I'm going to steal your drink old man?"

Marwyn snorted.

"Afraid? No, boy, but this costs three silvers for me to buy. And grand maesters get their drinks free here. And unlike you profligate southrons, I've learned to hold onto my coin."

Eyes twinkling, the prince waved down a serving boy and gestured at his companion's drink - plopping down a number of golden crowns onto the table at the boy's stunned look. Sighing, the peasant child ran to the back to get the, presumably labor intensive, drink ready.

"So. Now that that's settled, you wish to see my daughter? Surely you understand a father must be concerned when a man asks for his child with lust in their heart."

"I've got less lust in my whole body than you have in your right bollock, Prince of Whores." Marwyn took a long drink, clearly enjoying whatever it was he was imbibing. "But I won't deny that whatever child you sired, during what I'm sure was a lovely, and expensive, oh, three hours, is the most valuable bastard in the Seven Kingdoms."

This got a raised eyebrow.

"If she's so important, why weren't you among the throngs of wise men come to see her?"

"For the same reason we're meeting in an over crowded hole in the wall half full of foreigners and half full of acolytes."

There was a loud crash some three tables over as a pair of men fell to the floor, scrabbling and lashing at one another, only for a pair of particularly bury brown skinned fellows to literally pick them up and toss them out.

"So we're playing cloak and dagger games?"

"The owner is a friend of mine. Kept him from losing his cock to a curse, once." The so-called Mage's non answer explained everything.

"How many?"

"Watching us right now?" He actually chuckled. "None. But only because they think I'm asleep. And the lad who was supposed to be outside my chambers is enjoying the evening with an, ah, lady. One who was well compensated to stroke his ego most thoroughly."

"A pity I don't have time for that."

"I always did wonder if you Martells had two heads as well as three legs."

Guffawing, the prince took his drink and pushed the now slightly smouldering serving boy the gold coins, and down half of it in one gulp.

"Truly, you are a friend of House Martell and-"

For a brief second, he stood outside his own body, reality itself frozen in place. Then - color.

Blues and reds and whites and greens and purples and colors there were no words for. Reality itself bled away into a riot of noise that he could taste, sights he could feel, and a thick, hazy fuzz that seemed to wrap his entire body with warmth.

"Welcome back."

Blinking, Oberyn realized no time at all had passed. His hand hadn't even moved from where it'd been halfway to the table.

"Shade…." He found his throat unbearably parched. "Shade of the Evening?"

Nodding his head, the old man smirked.

"Amongst other things. Finish up and we'll talk. The first time never quite ends until you're done."

Another ripple of sound that stretched from the infinite ends of time blossomed like flower petals from the mage's lips. Words that were true and Truth and TRUTH all at once filled up the waterskin that was Oberyn Martell. Blinking, and realizing once more he'd skipped half a second as he spent years and days and minutes watching the sun spin in the sky through a wooden slat, he shrugged and tossed the rest of his drink back.

What came next didn't stay with him past the vision.

In truth, all he could recall was his daughter's face, crawling with insects before peeling back to reveal a girl who looked… almost like her, but older and rougher - though still pretty enough in the way girls who had not yet become women were.

That too peeled back, but he didn't recall what he saw next. Not… truly. Flashes of two great things, like worms, but made of light. Then a golden man, a swarm of embers, like fireflies, and then a goddess. For what could a woman with a thousand hands be but a goddess? His fist shattered when the goddess shot his not-daughter.

And that moment, when his blood mixed with the clay stained with the drink and the few drops of the narcotic remained he saw them.

White and Red and Black and all the colors of existence. Even a twisting rainbow, he saw every. Last. One.

And they were all looking at his daughter.

Because just as the woman who killed her with fire and steel was not… human, the mass of swarming vermin was too his daughter. Comforting, somehow, in the mass of insects and rats and carrion beasts and worse that swam in the depths that was his most gifted child.

"What did you see?"

Marwyn was greedy, eyes shining with a desire to know that Oberyn had only seen in madmen and fanatics before.

"The gods."

His voice was a croak, a whisper, somehow the mage knew it wasn't the truth - not completely. The man's eyes screamed as much.

"My daughter."

Lips pulled back showing too large canines and a butcher's grin.

"Wonderful. Drink this."

Producing a cup of something steaming and hot, the Red Viper almost hesitated to quaff the beverage. But whether it was relief or Oblivion, it would likely only do him good at this point.


And just like that he was back on his feet. Energy rushing through his veins as a lethargy he didn't realize he was wasting away under disappeared.

"Careful now. That stuff is strong. But you see now why we might be watched?"

"By who?"

"The same people who came to your door."

"Ophelia is a smart girl, she'd never-"

"She wouldn't need to. They're five or six times her age, with goals much more narrow than her own. Scraps for scraps, knowledge for knowledge. While she's intelligent, she doesn't quite know what not to give away." Marwyn finished his own drink, his eyes seeming to dull as he did so. "I tried to visit three times. The first time they were polite, told me to let others investigate so as not to waste my time. The second time, less so. My chain was implicitly threatened. The third, well, I was almost out of the city when a group of acolytes caught me."

"I must confess confusion that you were not dragged kicking and screaming back to your chambers."

"Hmmph. I would have been, had a lady friend not promised me you'd visit. Eventually."

"She knew we had left Sunspear to come visit you?"

"Aye. Three years ago."

Oberyn had no response for this. Feeling that he'd stepped into something a bit beyond what he was used to. Even the rituals and spells he'd learned had, admittedly, been about improving his, ah, virility and the potency of other, less wholesome, fluids as well. Not prophecy and the gods.

Sitting there in silence, the prince sipped on the warm drink while the wise man took a pull of a cool, dark ale the serving boy had brought to him.

Watching the crowd move was enough conversation.


Sarella, dodging through the crowd with ease, rushed over to her father's side - only stopping once to break a finger of a man with a wandering hand. Much to the amusement of his companions, who roared with drunken hilarity at their friend's misfortune.

"I, uh, well."

"You just broke a man's finger."

There was more than a hint of approval and pride in his voice.

"Yes, you see, uh, when I went to check on the Citadel I…."

A sudden commotion at the door distracted the group as several strong, rough looking men tried to force their way past the bouncers - only to be cracked across the face with a wooden club.

"Yeah. I may have pissed off the crew of an Ironborn ship."

Oberyn snorted with amusement, cutting his eyes to the dagger sheathed at her hip. And then the locations where she'd secreted another three about her person.

"And I hope you left them only maimed and not dead?"


This time Marwyn laughed, barking in amusement.

"Brown skin, like one from Southrys, Summer Islander? I see your father's eyes… that makes you Sarella."

"And you're the Archmaester Marwyn! I'm so glad to meet you sir! I've studied your writings on basilisks and unicorns extensively, as well as on the cult practices of Asshai and the similarities of some of their words with common Yi Tish! While I only understood some of the syntax connections it was truly enthralling! And the idea of the Yellow Emperor being connected to the war with the Tiger Men and the Dawn War and- oops.'

The Ironborn had clubs of their own now and the scuffle at the doorway had degenerated into a full on brawl, patrons and staff beating back snarling and furious raiders.

Marwyn just smiled.

"Let's slip out the back. I'll quiz you on our way to your family's camp." Turning to Oberyn, he nodded. "Quite the wondrous brood for a rake such as yourself to produce. I must say, I approve."

Shaking his head, the Dornish man took the backhanded compliment and snatched up his spear.

"Let's get moving. Before we have to kill a kraken - and not just its worshippers."

Ophelia would never forget their visit to Oldtown.

Not because it was such a massive cultural center filled with rich history and exotic goods. Nor was it because it was her first meeting with the enigmatic Marwin. Who'd soon become one of her closest confidants.

Rather, because it was her first time being chased out of a city since being reborn.

Without ever stepping foot inside its walls, most of the Martels were forced to leave after a certain stupid adventurer of an older sister got into a fight with a bunch of pirates. Thus denying her prodigious younger sister a chance to ever learn of its wonders….

"Come on, Ophelia. I said I was sorry" Said stupid adventurer of an older sister whined.

Which the young witch promptly ignored as she kept dumping her woes into the small diary she was keeping for the trip.

"It's been a week. You can't still be mad at me!"

The younger sister snorted.

Obviously, Sarella did not know how capable she was at holding grudges. Not that she blamed the older girl too much from interrupting her visit of Oldtown. What had really galled her was that she didn't even get to do anything before her dummy of a sister decided to start a bar fight.

"I know! I know!" Sarella grunted. "I might have screwed up there. But it wasn't my fault."

"You practically mauled half of a longship's entire crew and killed a quarter of the rest." She finally spoke out loud.

"In self defense!" Her sister protested.

"After how many tankards of mead?"

The adventurer deflated before her eyes. Mouth closing with a sudden click, a small mumble escaping her lips instead.

"I'm sorry, sister dearest. I didn't hear that."

"A couple… " Came the whispered reply.

"Just a couple, huh? Not a teensy bit more?"

Sarella looked to the side, an auburn glow coloring her cheeks.

"She was sober enough to know to find her father, no?"

Marwyn's laughter was all the encouragement the two sisters needed to finally make up. This taking the form of Sarella punching Ophelia's shoulder and the younger sister making a gnat fly into her sister's eye. Oberyn intervened before the apology could escalate any further.

"Whoever throws the next blow digs the latrines for the next week. For all of us. And the other one gets to take the night watch in the middle of the night for the same period of time."

Their make up session ended there.

"Good girls." The prince turned to his favorite maester. "You know, you should try having kids yourself. It's really not that hard. They're far more self sufficient and obedient than I was warned they would be. And if you want them to do something, just threaten them with filthy, difficult, back breaking labor. Honestly, I never really understood why some people needed to actually strike their get."

The older man snorted back a laugh.

"I suspect that would be your kids' penchant for hitting each other."

And there was some truth to it. The Sand Snakes rose together, worked together, trained together, fought tooth and nail together, and got into just about all sorts of messes Oberyn could have possibly conceived since they left Sunspear. It only hit him later that this was the first time they were traveling together.

Ophelia in particular, as she almost never left Sunspear. Only leaving to check up in other nearby cities. This trip, ill conceived as its reason had been, turned out to be exactly what his daughters needed to get closer as a family.

"Better they hit each other and live than some stranger hitting them to kill." He finally answered.

And given where they were headed. That was very much a good thing.

"How much longer until we are there?"

The dornish prince turned to face the young witch.

"I'd say around a week. Maybe less if we ride with haste."

A few days before Robert planned to make his trip up north. Or so their friends in court had told them.

It made sense. Robert's most loyal allies during the rebellion had been the Starks, so with Jon Arryn's death, the man needed a new Hand. And who else could that man trust but the most fanatically loyal of all Houses?

Not House Martel, of course.

In his eyes they were still Targaryen loyalists, just because they hadn't cheered and clapped when King's Landing was sacked. Never mind the countless brutalities back then, when they were to avenge the man losing the woman he loved. But when Oberyn gets angry that his own sister was brutalized and killed Robert gets to be all uppity.

And now Ophelia was being dragged into the latest Game.

For what reasons? Probably none good.

"I heard the city stinks of shit. Is that true Father?"

Elia trotted over to them, her mount falling into place beside their father's own mare.

"Aye. Fleabottom is a slum of the worst kind. And the sewers are poor or nonexistent in much of the city. I heard a story, once, that the Mad King wanted to build a city of marble opposite his city of dung. But such tales are likely as much the product of Aery's own insanity as anything else."

"Do you think I might be able to joust there? A tilt with their squires, at least?"

At this, Oberyn pursed his lips. And that expression of displeasure alone was enough to draw Ophelia's attention.

"You girls know that you're my greatest pride. But, as much as it turns my stomach, I will ask you to stick together and not… stick out. That city is a place of filth and weakness and treachery. Just as a Stark should never go South, a Martell has no need to go North of the pass." Visibly grimacing, he shook his head. "Strangely enough, I trust Mace and his sons with your cousin. But she is also not my daughter and they are close to us. Close enough we would be able to exeter a degree of influence over her fate, no matter what. But the Crownlands…."

"Tells us what you think, we're listening."

Ophelia's words had the desired effect. And all of the Snakes there, even Obara, stowed their inevitable objections and listened to their sire's words.

"To be blunt, the people that live there are often sick. A… desperation of the spirit. A twisted vitality. Their peasants are prone to violence, born from chronic destitution, rampant abuse by their indolent, indulgent nobility, and possess an almost suicidal predisposition to rioting. This is compounded with an oftentimes fanatical devotion to their religions and superstitions, words filling their bellies when the ubiquitous brown can not. And above it all is the king."

For a moment, the man was quiet.

"In truth, I do not hate him. I feel great anger towards him, and would not weep should he die slowly and agonizingly, but mostly he drowns in solipsism. His pain, his lost love, his cock, his belly, his throat. These are his world. And as he mourns a girl he never knew, the realm circles. Whether into an abyss or to pick at his carcass, you will have to decide for your own."

Grunting, Obara spurred her horse forward, tossing a few words over her shoulder.

"Sounds like we should do the world a favor and kill the whole city."

The witch rolled her eyes.

"That's your answer for all problems, Obara. Besides, if I go there and clear my name, I also get some free publicity which means more business. Which means I get more gold for my projects and an excuse to raise my prices. It's a win-win!"

"Business? Count me out. Not a merchant." The Lady Lance rode in besides her sister.

"Do whatever you want, milady. So long as you keep out of sight. The Spider has spies all over the city. We shouldn't give him any reasons to pry."

It wasn't just the Royals and their games. Or the perpetual backstabbing at Court.

All of them knew of the Spider.

The Master of Whispers. One of the most impossibly well informed men in all of Westeros and beyond. Being anywhere near him would be dangerous enough. And the former villain couldn't help but feel she was missing something in this whole convoluted plan to draw her away from Dorne.

Why was she called?

Who was the one behind this?

Something was afoot and she didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle. Only the small bits and parts she'd managed to gather during their trip. Whoever wanted her in King's Landing had gone through a lot of trouble to make sure she couldn't just outright decline.

Whatever they wanted, and however they wanted to get her involved in this mess, there was no way to tell until they reached King's Landing.