This is the second part of my Kingsmoot Saga. Before you read "The Glory of Ice: Reign of the Mockingbird," please read "A Parliament of Fowls: The First Kingsmoot of Westeros," or you will be incredibly confused when reading this. Obviously, everything here is the property of George R.R. Martin. I own nothing except any original characters.
"Lord Nestor Royce," Petyr Baelish said, "Your instructions are simple. Keep the Gates of the Moon how I kept the Eyrie: sealed. No information leaves the rookery unless it bears my seal, both in wax and in writing."
"Yes, my lord," Nestor responded. Still, he couldn't stop all the information from entering the Gates of the Moon. The smallfolk working in the fields around the castle began to hear rumors from men traveling through the Vale. The most potent rumor was also the most mysterious: that Petyr Baelish went to the Kingsmoot in the Red Keep, and now sat the Iron Throne.
But Maester Snorri still only reported the usual ravens: Runestone, Gulltown, and Ironoak. The Lords of the Vale were all trying to gain influence over Nestor. He had, essentially, control over the Vale with the Lord Regent's natural daughter Alayne.
Lord Nestor originally hoped, shamefully from his own ambitions, that he would have Lord Robert under his custody. Seldom does a cadet branch overtake in power and riches a host branch, but if those rumors of a King Petyr were true, then Nestor had a huge advantage over cousin Yohn.
He surveyed the fields around the Gates before the sun dipped behind the western mountains and an autumn chill descended on him in the darkness. One by one, the smallfolk left the fields and journeyed to their huts. Nestor waited until he began to lose feeling in his smallest toe. He walked inside the castle and nodded to the gatekeeper. The poor soldier was wrapped in a bunch of furs, covering his face and neck with just a bit of rabbit coat peeking out from over his eyes, under his helmet.
The gate closed and Lord Nestor felt instantly warmer. He made his way into the great hall that was really nothing close to the definition of great. Considering the halls and hearths at Runestone, Longbow Hall, or the Eyrie, the Gates of the Moon was tiny at best. One would figure the winter seat of House Arryn would be something great or beautiful. But no, all money poured into Sky, Snow, Stone, and the Eyrie proper. Despite being the face of the Vale, the Gates of the Moon were barely maintained to a functioning capacity. Now that he was a Lord, Nestor wanted to find a way to fix that. The Gates of the Moon was his seat. He couldn't let other Lords of Westeros look at his castle and say that it wasn't fit for a Lord of his stature.
At the end of the far table were two girls sitting across from one another. Lord Nestor walked closer and saw that Alayne and Mya, girls with the name Stone to denote their bastard lineage, were moving crude wooden pieces over a wooden board. The board was divided into sixty-four squares of alternating weirwood and ebony. Alayne appeared to be winning.
Lord Baelish's daughter gathered two forces together of equal size and strength coming at Mya from either direction. Mya Stone, more used to leading mules than armies tried to stop Alayne's forces any way she could. When all else failed, Mya pulled out her dragon from behind the walls and tried to recreate the Field of Fire. In a move Nestor saw from a mile away, Alayne sacrificed her rabble and spearmen to Mya's dragon before taking out the dragon by springing a trap of crossbowmen. Only after Mya's dragon was killed did Alayne bring hers out to mop up Mya's forces. After Mya's dragon was dead, Alayne won in ten turns.
"Sorry, Mya. You can never take our your dragon too early." Alayne said, collecting her pieces into the little wooden box.
"I'll keep that in mind when we play tomorrow. For now, I'm beat." Mya stood, stretched her arms out, and then said, "G'night Alayne. Good evening, Lord Nestor." Mya left for her quarters. Alayne picked up the cyvasse board and was about to retire as well.
"That was a good game, Lady Alayne."
"Thank you, Lord Nestor," Alayne said.
"I wasn't aware that you knew the arts of war." Nestor looked Alayne from head to toe. She was a woman grown, coming up to Nestor's shoulder. Alayne had full breasts that seemed to get bigger every day, and a young beautiful face. She was fifteen years old, but grew and developed like a younger girl. It was her hair that got Nestor the most. Red gold that shone black in the sun. Alayne Stone, if the rumors were right, would soon be Alayne Baelish, the most eligible bachelorette in the Seven Kingdoms and the heir to the Iron Throne, "You should ask the Citadel for your iron links."
Alayne laughed softly, "Thank you, Lord Nestor. It's just a thing or two my father told me. That and lots of practice."
"You sure do play a good game of cyvasse. You could certainly bring the game to court when your father sends for you."
"At court? You don't think my father will return to the Vale?"
Damn. Lord Nestor reminded himself not to validate the rumors he was hearing from mindless, tactless hedge knights and singers, "Your father's in King's Landing. We know he stayed there long enough during King Robert's reign to develop a liking to courtly life. I'm sure he'll send for you soon."
Alayne nodded, "Thank you. Good night, Lord Nestor." She walked away down the same hall that Mya took to her sleeping quarters. Nestor couldn't help but stare at her as she walked away.
Lord Nestor Royce decided he was tired as well and should probably get to bed. Being a Lord in Westeros in service to the (probable) King Petyr Baelish required one to rise early. He went off to his sleeping quarters and lit a pair of candles. He undressed, left one by the beside and left his sword on the table. He was about to put another log on the hearth to get the fire going when he noticed a book on the desk that he was certain was not left there the last time he was in the room. It was hard to tell exactly what the book was in the dim light, but he eventually saw the dark imprint on the cover: a circle over the middle of four double-sided tridents. In between the central ring and the heads were collections of three bars. Twenty-four spearheads, twenty-four bars, it was a powerful and sacred sign the Lord of the Gates remembered from his childhood at Runestone. Truth be told, he just couldn't remember what it was called…
The helm of awe.
That was it. When the Andals invaded Westeros with a seven-pointed star carved in their chests invoking the Warrior's courage, the First Men had the helm of awe tattooed on their chests supposedly believing themselves invisible. The Andals won. Nestor only remembered a few stories from when he was eight and crossed sticks with the Bronze Yohn. Ever since leaving Runestone the only runes he ever saw were on shields.
Before Lord Nestor even knew what was happening it already happened. He was on his knees before a man in nothing but a pair of pants and a lacquer mask. He was covered in tattoos. Runes, valknuts, and sacred symbols crisscrossed the man's body. And in the center, over his sternum, was the helm of awe.
He didn't have eyes on the back of his head, but if he did, he was willing to bet he'd see a man that looked similar.
"What are our words?"
Was that what this is about? Old fairy tales from a poetic structure no one uses anymore? "We remember." Nestor answered obediently.
"And what do we remember?"
This was the test. "We remember" were the words of House Royce. The Andal words. There was a hidden answer on the underside of every Royce's shield. Written in Runes, pronounced in the Old Tongue of the First Men, it was a single word he couldn't remember at all. It had been forever since this was ever even asked of him. It was never asked! Not even behind closed doors in the darkest wings of the castle of Runestone.
"I… I…" Nestor stammered. He saw the man in front of him brandish an axe. He fingered the handle sensually as Nestor fumbled and struggled to find the word. All it took was one word… but it was gone. Lost in some forgotten corner of his First Men mind mangled and contorted by the ways of the Andals, "I don't remember."
The Lord of the Gates sealed his death with three words of the Common Tongue.