A SONG FOR SLAUGHTER
A Battletech/Game of Thrones Crossover
AUTHOR'S NOTES: After reading the first three books of the Song of Ice and Fire series last year (having read A Game of Thrones right after it was first published, and then forgetting about it), watching the HBO series, and meeting George R.R. Martin last May, I thought Westeros would make a neat setting for a Battletech game. It has all the elements of one—given that there's five major Houses of Westeros, and five major Successor Houses, it makes you wonder if GRRM did a little BT back in the day. (Quite possible: dude's a hardcore gamer.)
Anyhow, for a few months, I let my weekly Battletech group conquer Westeros and we had a lot of fun. The results of two of those games—the combat drop on Winterfell—you can read in A Storm of Snowbirds, elsewhere on this site. I came up with a lot of ideas about a Battletech Westeros, but didn't put anything down to paper aside from the aforementioned Storm of Snowbirds. Then the other day, I was reading Dynamite Entertainment's comic adaptation of Game of Thrones (which is really, really good, BTW), and it inspired me to revisit 31st-Century Westeros. Which would horrify GRRM, I'm sure, as he hates fanfiction…
I don't know if I'll do any more of these, though I love doing "between the pages" fanfics. Writing for me is just tougher these days, because of a very busy work schedule. I'm still doing Snowbird's Shorts, too, but those are just silly.
Enjoy and please, R&R. I always love to hear from you.
Sentinels RCAT Expeditionary Headquarters
Winterfell, Westeros, Dieron Military District, Draconis Combine
23 February 3075
Sheila Arla-Vlata looked out over the city of Winterfell, still smoking three days after the Sentinels grounded on the planet of Westeros. The smoke came from the smoldering wreckage of what had been a Word of Blake company, destroyed by the Snowbirds in the initial combat drop. It also came from what had been a high-end residential district in the "new town" area of Winterfell, beyond the ancient walls of the "old town." Sheila, with the permission of the ruling family of Winterfell, House Stark, established her headquarters in the family ancestral castle. She did not plan to be there long.
There was a respectful knock at the door. "Come in," Sheila said.
The old wooden door opened and admitted one of the Sentinels Light Infantry, who came to rigid attention. "Commander Maysa Bari to see you, ma'am. "
Sheila smiled. "Thank you. Show her in."
Maysa Bari walked into the chamber, as usual, all smiles. She snapped to with a precision salute, but as soon as it was returned, she embraced Sheila in a hug. Sheila thought to herself that Maysa had not changed much over the years: it was over twenty years since the end of the Clan War, and yet Maysa still was baby-faced, still wore her hair short and close-cropped, except the long red braid that ran down her back. Maysa was not yet forty; Sheila was over that mark, though not by much. Sheila felt over forty, however. In the mirror on the opposite wall, Sheila could see that she still looked pretty good for a woman of a certain age with twenty years of hard living behind her: she was still fit and trim, nothing sagging, and her hair black without a hint of gray. Only the lines around her eyes and—Sheila thought morosely—extra weight around her hips betrayed the fact that she was no longer the twenty year old wonder heroine of the Clan War.
And now here she was, with Maysa, in yet another campaign. Sheila had lost count. Only the enemy changed.
Maysa was staring at her. "Sorry?" Sheila said.
"I'm not so cute that I'm distracting you," Maysa returned with a grin.
"No, I was just thinking…" Sheila shook it off. Business first. "No, never mind. How are you?"
"Just got down an hour ago. Great!" Of course she is, Sheila thought, Maysa Bari is always happy. Chop off her leg and Maysa will ask if the procedure was fun. "Hey, I really appreciate you assigning Vikka to your headquarters. She needs the experience." And the protection. Sheila heard Maysa's unspoken addition.
"Not a problem." Sheila motioned Maysa over to a table. Like everything else in the chamber, it was ancient, probably dating back to the Star League or before. The Starks were traditionalists; the castle would've been out of date a thousand years ago, but it was built like a Middle Ages fortress—albeit one with modern heating and plumbing. The holoprojector on it was brand new, though. Sheila switched it on. It flickered and then projected a color, two-dimensional map. "Welcome to Westeros, Maysa."
"I have seen the map, you know," Maysa chided. "I did go to the pre-assault brief."
"I know, yeah. But what you don't know is the political situation. Victor threw us into the deep end on this one." Sheila referred to Victor Steiner-Davion, former Archon Prince of the Federated Commonwealth and now Precentor Martial of the battered-but-not-broken Star League Defense Forces. "I think it's because even he didn't know how screwed up this place is."
"Well, the Wobbies are here."
"Yeah, but it turns out the Wobs are just part of the overall picture. Hell, we and the Wobbies may end up being only part of someone else's war."
Maysa blinked. One war was bad enough: the Word of Blake's Jihad was in its sixth year, and showed no signs of abating. In fact, the forces arrayed against the WOB were only now beginning to take the offensive rather than fighting holding actions. She could not imagine the Blakists being only pawns in a planetary spat. "I don't get it."
"Me neither, but here's what Robb Stark—that's the current local ruler, by the way—"
"I met him." Maysa's grin got wider. "If I was twenty years younger and unmarried, I might've just made a play for that boy. He's cute."
"Not you too." Sheila smiled. Robb Stark was a kind and generous host, obviously raised a gentleman with impeccable manners; he was also profusely thankful for the Sentinels arriving in the nick of time to save Winterfell from a Word of Blake sacking. It seemed, however, that every Sentinels female openly salivated at him. Sheila admitted that the Stark boy—not yet twenty himself—was kind of cute, at that, in a sad, comfort-the-puppy way.
"Sorry. Go on." Maysa was blushing.
"Anyhow, this is what Stark told me." Sheila touched the map. "Okay, Westeros is just like a minature Inner Sphere, which is to say, it's fucked up. There are five major Houses here." She indicated each in turn. "The Starks are here in the north. Geographically, they have the most land, but it's tough going for the people here; not too many people live this far north.
"To the south of us is are the Riverlands, which is House Tully land. To the east of them is the Vale of Arryn, ruled by—you guessed it—the Arryns. Over here in the Westerlands are the Lannisters; the Reach, ruled by the Tyrells, and then the deserts of Dorne, which is Martell country. The southeast part here, around the planetary capital of King's Landing, is House Baratheon."
"What about these islands out here, west of us?" Maysa pointed at a small archipelago.
"That's the Iron Islands—House Greyjoy. Pretty minor; nothing to worry about."
"Great. And this thing, way to the north of us. The Wall?"
"Yeah, the Wall. Apparently there's a bunch of barbarian tribes that live to the north, up in the tundra." Sheila rolled her eyes. "Well, that's what the locals call them, anyway. The Wall keeps them out."
"Okay." Maysa studied the map. She was all business now. "Where do the Wobbies fit in? We're not here to play politics, are we?"
"Unfortunately we may not have a choice." Sheila shared Maysa's sour expression; they had the traditional soldier's disdain for the politics that usually started more wars than solved them. "Seems the Wobbies arrived here back in 3069, when they were making their big push coreward into Combine territory. Seeing that the planet wasn't much threat to them and the locals didn't put up too much resistance, they left a small garrison and moved on."
"I get the feeling they've reinforced that garrison."
"Yep. The 7th Division, commanded by Seth Smith-Solomon. Piece of work; they were on Outreach."
Maysa blanched. "Surprised they didn't just glass the planet."
"No reason to. See, here's the deal: Westeros was ruled for a long time by House Targaryen, a minor offshoot of Kurita. They even use the same dragon sigil. The last ruler, however, was batshit crazy, and this guy Robert Baratheon overthrew him and took the throne for himself just before the Clan War. Takashi Kurita agreed that the last Targaryen was more trouble than he was worth, and let the coup stand. When the Wobbies showed up, Kurita had already evacuated the planetary garrison to help defend Dieron. Apparently King Robert wanted to fight the Wobs, but he was talked out of it."
"That was probably for the best," Maysa remarked. Planetary militia would not last long against House units; the Word of Blake was much tougher.
"There's more to it than that," Sheila replied. "King Robert is—was—married to Cersei Lannister. The Lannisters are one of the smaller kingdoms, but they're also the richest. Apparently they saw which way the wind was blowing and cozied up to the Wobbies."
Sheila nodded. "Robert Baratheon died in a hunting accident two months ago."
"A 7.62 millimeter hunting accident?"
Sheila chuckled. "Gored by a wild boar, if you can believe it. He was drunk off his ass at the time, so it may have really been an accident. He's got a few kids, though, so the succession was safe…sort of." Sheila paused. "The new king is a kid—Joffrey Baratheon. He declared for the Word of Blake, possibly due to his mother's influence. I don't know.
"And it gets worse. The king's enforcer, or whatever, is referred to as the King's Hand on this planet. Up until last year, the King's Hand was a fellow named Jon Arryn, and he died…except Robb Stark, and his mother, and apparently a lot of other people think Arryn was poisoned."
"By the Wobbies?"
"Quite possibly. Anyhow, Robert brought his old war buddy Eddard Stark in as the new Hand; seems they fought together in the Fourth Succession War and the War of '39. Problem is, one of the first acts of Good King Joffrey was to imprison Eddard Stark and accuse him of being a traitor. That's him in the picture on the wall there, by the way."
Maysa crossed the room to inspect the portrait. Eddard Stark was a tough looking man, the picture of a no-nonsense warrior. In the portrait he wore local clothing, but the medals he wore were Kuritan. "He had the Katana Cluster. Why did Joffrey throw him in the klink?"
"Eddard is damned good, from what I hear." Sheila waited until Maysa returned. "As to why Joffrey had him imprisoned, we're guessing it was his mother again. That's what happens when you put a teenage mama's boy on the throne. Arryn knew something, and Stark may have learned what it was. And to make matters worse, the two daughters of the Stark family—Sansa and Arya—are being held as hostages.
"Understandably, House Stark is just a bit pissed off about all that, so they seceded and declared war. Knowing the king has the ear of the Word of Blake, they sent off a message to Victor asking for help." Sheila smiled. "And here we are."
"Great." Maysa sighed. She never thought she would miss fighting the Clans. "So what's our plan?"
"The good news is that the 7th Division never anticipated the Starks getting offworld help, and definitely not the Sentinels. When the Starks declared war, Joffrey declared them in rebellion and asked his good buddy Precentor Smith-Solomon to slag Winterfell. Smith-Solomon didn't need the whole division to do it, not against a poorly equipped militia force, and sent what we'd call an understrength battalion up here to curb stomp the Starks." Sheila's smile turned wolfish. "What's left of them are hauling ass to the south, and they've got a long way to run. The Tullys, here in the Riverlands, are allied to the Starks by marriage—Robb's mom is a Tully. The Tullys are staying on the down-low for now, but as soon as we enter the Riverlands, they'll jump in with us and the Starks. They've already quietly mobilized. Between them and the Starks, they can put a reinforced regiment of tanks and infantry in the field—only just about a company of 'Mechs, though. The Combine wasn't keen on letting local petty houses get their hands on 'Mechs."
Maysa nodded. The Sentinels were strong on 'Mechs, decent on tanks, but poor on infantry, with just a battalion of the Sentinels Light Infantry. The SLI was elite, but still small. A regiment of infantry and tanks could hold down secondary forces while the Sentinels went for the 7th Division. "So what's the bad news? The other Westeros houses aren't with us?"
"The Lannisters aren't, for sure. That's not good news, because the Lannisters are apparently fitting out a battalion of 'Mechs; they literally have more C-Bills than they know what to do with, and they're buying stuff left and right. Worse, the top lion there is Tywin Lannister. Heard of him?"
"He beat the shit out of Nondi Steiner in 3039, then gave the Smoke Jaguars one hell of a bloody nose on Alshain—and then if he didn't kick hell out of the Jags again on Port Arthur during Operation Bulldog. He's retired and old, but he's damn good, probably better than Smith-Solomon. We're going to have to hope we're better. He does have a sense of honor, I'm told, so maybe the Lannisters are just playing the field.
"The Tyrells and the Martells have declared themselves neutral, but the only one who means it are the Martells; the Tyrells follow the leader, and in any case they're not going to rebel with most of the 7th deployed in their lands. The Baratheons have been sitting on the sidelines too, but there's a rumor that their boss man—Stannis Baratheon, the former king's brother—wants the throne. There's a good chance they'll join us, but they can't put a lot in the field right now as Stannis has mostly a seaborne force, and God alone knows what Stannis will ask for it. That leaves the Arryns."
Maysa shrugged. "No problem. This Jon Arryn Hand guy got cacked by the Wobbies, right? Heck, they're probably already mobilized."
"They are…but not against the Wobbies. They're making no secret about that they're neutral." Sheila shook her head. "Doesn't make any sense, either. With Jon Arryn dead, the house regent is his wife Lysa—and she's a Tully too. Catelyn Stark—Mama Stark—is her sister. So she's got bonds of marriage and revenge, but she's not honoring either. The 7th Division is still well to the south, concentrated around King's Landing. If the Tullys and the Arryns combine forces, they can cut this battalion off to the south while we roll them up from the north. Then we can walk into King's Landing, free the Starks, and it's God bless us, every one."
Maysa almost asked why they even needed a bunch of militia to help them destroy an isolated WOB battalion, when the Sentinels were two regiments strong, but then looked closer at the map. The main continent of Westeros narrowed considerably from the north, before opening up again. Sheila, watching Maysa's expression and her eyes, gave her a nod. "Yep, you see the trouble." Sheila stabbed a finger at it. "It's called the Neck."
Maysa zoomed in the hologram. Two inlets—the Saltspear from the west and the Bite from the east—formed the Neck. According to the map, it was a mix of swamp and forest. There was a nice four-lane highway, the Kingsroad, that traversed the Neck north to south, but it was an elevated causeway, and guarded at both ends by two fortresses, Moat Cailin and Greywater Watch. "How tough are the defenses here?"
"Moat Cailin is supposedly built off of a Star League-era Castle Brian, but I'm not overly worried about it; fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man," Sheila quoted. "The thing is, all that battalion has to do is delay us for a few days or even a couple of weeks. That gives the 7th time to get their act together and move north, and we not only lose the initiative, we also lose any help the Tullys and Arryns can give us. If we can cut that battalion off from their line of communication down the Kingsroad, they'll either be surrounded or forced to fall back another couple of hundred kilometers. We get through the Neck into the Riverlands and some nice open country for 'Mechs. The Tullys are willing to play ball once we get down there. The Arryns aren't."
"You think they'll join the Wobbies?"
"I don't think so, but it's hard to tell. Either way, we need them. To paraphrase the ancient American Lincoln, it would be nice to have God on our side, but we've got to have the Vale of Arryn."
Maysa saw exactly what Sheila meant. The Vale of Arryn was quite mountainous; it would be very tough to attack, and easy to defend. With the Arryns on the Sentinels' side, the regiment would have a secure line of supply and rear area. Though Maysa did not have the formal military academy training Sheila did, twenty years of experience taught her a lot. The focal point of this campaign would naturally be the capital, King's Landing, though Maysa knew Sheila intended to destroy the 7th Division, after which the capital could be taken at leisure. With the Vale of Arryn in hand, the Sentinels could even leapfrog across to Blackwater Bay and strike King's Landing, with the help of this Stannis Baratheon. Not having the Arryns would prevent all of that, or at the least, make it very difficult.
"Someone's got to convince Lysa Arryn that her best bet is to throw in with us," Maysa said at length. "And that's not going to be easy."
"Nope. Luckily, I know just the person."
"Well, her sister might could do it…" Maysa's voice trailed off as she realized Sheila was looking directly at her. Realization dawned. "No, Sheila. Oh, no."
"You're perfect, Maysa. You can charm the birds out of the trees, you know that. You know the saying around the Sentinels: just try to deny Saint Maysa." Maysa winced at her nickname, bestowed due to her piety and supposed perfection. Maysa joined the Sentinels at sixteen and became the best shot in the Snowbirds on her first mission; she went from the lowest MechWarrior in a lance to the second-in-command of the entire Sentinels in less than a decade; she cured herself of stage fright, learned guitar, and sang, becoming a minor Inner Sphere singing sensation overnight. Military people knew of Sheila Arla-Vlata due to her military prowess, but most of the galaxy knew Maysa Bari, who sang like an angel and fought like a devil. She heard the stories when people thought she was out of earshot. Some of them were true, most were exaggerations, and some were downright lies. Making things infinitely worse was the predatory grin on Sheila's face. "I bet Lysa Arryn won't be able to resist you."
"What if she turns me over to the Wobbies?"
Sheila's smile faded. "I thought about that, but honestly, Maysa…you're the only one who can do this. You've got the charm, you've got charisma, you've got the military knowledge, and everyone knows who you are. Everyone else is either an unknown, or has a reputation." Sheila shrugged sheepishly. "Like me. Everyone believes I'm half-crazy, unreasonable bitch. If there's anyone who can unlock the Vale, it's you."
And that, Maysa thought later, was one reason she should have stayed a MechWarrior and been happy for the work.