Note: To all my followers and readers, I apologize for the dreadful wait I forced you all to endure this time. 5 months is far too long but I'm afraid it could not be helped due Writers Block and Work blessing me with more hours and few days off. So I decided to make this a long chapter to make up for some of it. Rest assured the next chapter is underway and I already know what to do with it. I will do my best to get it done soon but I can make no promises. But I can promise that it will not take 5 months. So read, review and enjoy chapter 13.
Quick as a Shadow
Light as a feather
Smooth as Summer Silk
The words of her dancing master swept through Arya's mind as she chased the black cat across the Red Keep. Syrio had sent her after all the cats in the castle. One by one Ayra caught them and presented them to Syrio.
Now she was chasing it, the greatest of them all, the oldest, the meanest, the only one left. One guard had told her about how it had snatched a roasted quail out of Lord Tywin's hand. Both Robert and Roland howled with laughter. Roland even made a jape about it using the 'Rains of Castamere.'
And who are you, the feline said
that I must bow so low
only a cat of a different sort
that's all the truth I know.
Now she was on his tail, she followed him through what seemed like every inch of the castle. Eventually he led her to a part of the Keep she hadn't been to before. It was cold and dark and empty. After looking around, Arya realized to late that she had lost the cat. As she made a turn, Arya came face to face with a huge skull. The surprise of it caused Arya to fall backwards onto the floor. It took Arya a moment to realize that it was the skull of a dragon. Her mouth hung open in awe, it was enormous. It's fangs were taller than her father and it's maw was large enough to fit the royal carriage with ease. Arya reached out her hand and ran it across the fang.
As she stood there, Arya heard voices approaching, turning her head she saw a torchlight getting brighter and brighter. Instinctively she hid herself behind the maw of the dragon skull. Poking her head out, she saw two men. One was a very fat, his clothes were rich with many jewels and had a golden beard combed into a fork. the other looked like a soldier yet Arya felt that she had seen him before. Though she couldn't see their faces their voices had become clearer.
"He has found the boy, it won't be long before he puts the pieces of the puzzle together." Said the soldier.
"The question remains, what will he do once he discovers the truth?". The fat man asked.
"I know not, the situation is no longer under my control. The lions have tried to kill his son twice, it won't be long before the lion and the wolf are clawing at each other's throats.
"It's too soon," the fat man complained. "You must delay, you have to stall for time. We are not ready for war."
The other man laughed, "Do you take me for a wizard, would that our plans will go through so smoothly. In any case what would you have me do."
The fat man laughed back, "You may not be a wizard, but you are pretty close. As for the Hand, if one can die, why not two."
The soldier shook his head. "Madness, that's what it is, ever since Lord Arryn's death too many things have occurred. Stannis Baratheon has fled to Dragonstone, while Lysa Arryn has fled to the Eyrie. Lord Renly and Ser Loras are plotting to usurp the queen. Then there is Littlefinger, for all my spies and cunning, I still can't figure out what his plan is. But we must worry about him another time. The Starks worry me more than any of them. He now has the boy and the book and soon he will find the truth.
Arya kept as still and as quiet as possible. She couldn't make sense of what the two men were talking about but it was clear that mother and father were involved. She crawled out of the skull and followed them as quietly as possible.
"So what is our next move."
"I will think of something, in the mean time we must make plans for who ever wins the upcoming conflict. Return to Pentos my friend, I will report back when I figure it out."
Finally the two men stopped in front of a large stone, the soldier set the torch on a rack and pulled on the stone revealing a secret tunnel. The two men entered and disappeared. Arya quickly followed and entered the tunnel. After walking for a while she came across a fork in the tunnel. With little options, Arya chose the left hand path. She walked for what seemed like hours before she finally saw daylight. Arya realized that she was out of the city overlooking the Blackwater rush. Looking to her right she saw the harbor. As fast as her legs could manage, Arya rushed to the Mud Gate.
Her heart was racing, 'someone is plotting against my parents.' She thought horrified. "According to those men something terrible is about to happen. I have to warn them before it does.
'Arya seems to have a habit of getting into too much trouble' Roland thought to himself. Lord Stark had half of his household guard looking for his daughter. It was almost dusk when she finally showed up at the Mud Gate. Lord Stark chastised her before sending her on her way. As he sat at his desk reading he heard a knock on his door. Opening it he found Arya standing in the doorway. With a look of fear in her eyes.
"Arya, what seems to be the matter." Roland asked curiously.
"I have to tell you something, it's important." She replied urgently.
After studying her for a moment. Roland bid her to come in. "Now what's so important." He asked.
Arya began to tell him about her trip to the dungeons and everything she had heard. The two men, the plots, and the secret tunnel. Roland listened intently and with every word said, his interest grew.
"The two men can you describe them."
The description of the soldier was not too helpful, But the other man peaked his interest especially the part about his golden forked beard.
"Did he have rings on every finger?"
"Yes", said Arya, "why do you know him?"
"Illyrio Mopatis," Roland replied grimly. "I remember him when he visited King's Landing to discuss a trading deal with my father."
As he listened to Arya's tale his expression darkened when she mentioned Renly's plot. 'I always knew uncle Renly had great ambition' Roland thought 'but this is going too far.' Finally Arya came to the part about the secret tunnel.
"Can you show me where it is?" Roland asked.
Arya nodded and led him to the enormous skull where she had been hiding. Roland paused to acknowledge the skull. "Balerion the Dread," he told her. Now that she was no longer hiding Arya was able to truly appreciate it in awe. "The greatest of the Targaryen dragons, a reminder that you can have all the armies in the world and it only takes one dragon to turn them to ash."
Going further down the hallway, Arya showed him the rock that blocked the tunnel, with great effort, he manage to move it to the side revealing the entrance. "Their is a fork further in," Arya explained. "one path leads to the river." Roland nodded, "We best get back, I'm sure your dancing master has another lesson for you."
As they headed back to the Tower of the Hand, a servant rushed up to Roland and bowed. "Pardon me Prince Roland," he said. "Your father requests your presence in the Small Council Chamber."
Roland stepped into the small council chambers and there at the table sat the whole small council (with the exception of Stannis). Roland was surprised to find his father here, he rarely ever attends a small council meeting. 'This MUST be something important if my father is here', Roland thought to himself. He noticed Lord Stark and by the angry look on his face, there seemed to be a heated argument. On the table was a map that contained Westeros and Essos.
Giving a respectable bow he spoke up. "You summoned me father?"
"Yes, I want you to speak sense to this honorable fool," roared his father gesturing at Ned.
"What is this all about", asked Roland.
"The Targaryen whore is pregnant," Robert growled.
Roland realized that this was about Danearys. "And?" Roland asked wondering what the point was. He knew that his father hated just for being Targaryen. Inwardly he disapproved thinking it was unnecessary.
Robert looked at his son incredulously. he thought for sure that his son would see the seriousness of the situation. "And, we need to do something about her!"
"Such as?" Even though he asked Roland already knew the answer. He just needed to hear it from his father.
It was at this time that Lord Stark cut in. "Your father intends to send an assassin to kill her, I've been trying to convince him not to go through with it, but as you can see Ser Barristan and I are alone in this matter."
Roland nodded. "I agree, it's a stupid idea," he said simply.
As he looked around the table and saw his father, Baelish, Varys, Pycelle and Renly looking at him in stunned silence. Ned was also surprised at his bluntness while Barristan Selmy gave an approving nod.
"Not you too Roland," the king sighed in exasperation. "Have you lost your senses boy." Robert asked in disbelief. "We need to get rid of her and her brother as well."
"We should of killed them years ago," Renly interjected.
Roland rolled his eyes and spoke to his father. "I agree that Viserys must die, but to murder a child that is pregnant no less would be a dishonorable beyond measure."
"HONOR?" Robert roared. "I have Seven Kingdoms to rule, One king, Seven Kingdoms. Do you think honor keeps the peace son. No, it's fear, Fear and Blood."
"Fear and Blood?" Roland repeated incredulously. "Are we Baratheons or Targaryens? They too thought they could rule through fear and blood after they lost their dragons. Now look what it brought them in the end. Exiled and near extinction."
Robert and the council were taken aback by Roland's statement. 'I have you now' he thought, 'your move'. Now it was Varys' turn to speak up.
"I understand your misgiving my prince. I truly do. but sometimes we must do vile things for the good of the realm. Should the gods give Danaerys a son, the realm will bleed."
"When you find yourself in bed with an ugly women the best thing to do is close your eyes and get it over with," Baelish spoke up. "Cut her throat and be done with it."
Roland scoffed before rounding on him on him, "And risk angering Khal Drogo?" he asked. "No, so far he has no reason to come here. but if you murder Danaerys, he may very well sail here to avenge his wife and unborn child. Besides what if your assassin fails, you will have a vengeful mother, and an angry Khal to join her.
Robert took a long look at his son and slumped into his chair. "I had not considered that."
"He doesn't need to know," Pycelle countered. Surely we can do it in a way where he doesn't find out it was us?"
Roland rolled his eyes, "Khal Drogo may be a Dothraki but he's not stupid. No matter how well you hide it the truth always finds it's way into the light eventually."
Robert looked up at his son and said quietly. "So what is your wise advice boy, do nothing until the enemy is on our shores?"
Roland shook his head. "Of course not, what do you take me for?" He placed a finger on the map of Essos right where Vaes Dothrak was. "The answer will be found in patience father," he said calmly trailing his finger from Vaes Dothrak to Kings Landing before placing his finger to his chin in thought. "Leave her be for now, observe what they do and let them make the first move. Because he who makes the first move also makes the first mistake."
"And what if they decide to invade, what then?" Robert asked in wonder.
Roland smiled and nodded. "Very well, let's say for the sake of argument that Viserys does invade with 40,000 Dothraki warriors. Do you have any idea how many ships they will need in order to transport such a force. They will need 400 just for the men alone, not including the ships needed for their horses. Because as we know, Dothraki can't live without their horses. There's also the provisions for the journey. All in all that is over 1,000 ships, filled with tens of thousands of sea sick dothraki. There are only 3 places that can provide that amount of ships, Braavos, Volantis, and Qarth. I doubt any of them will be willing to waste precious resources helping a beggar king. We have 600 warships, if they do sail here, we will crush them in the sea and send them to the dark abyss."
Roland stared down the council and was once again met with silence. No one had a counter to his argument. They were loosing and even Varys realized that. But he saw in their faces that they were indeed trying to think of something but it was no use.
Finally even Robert gave up and slammed his fist in to the table causing some goblets too spill. "Fine", he growled reluctantly. "We'll do it your way and leave her be for now. But be warned boy, if she does come here and there is war it will be on your head."
"So be it", Roland replied in acceptance. "I'll consider the Targaryens a threat, the moment they start assembling a fleet. When that happens, send an assassin." With that Roland bowed and headed towards the door. After a pause Roland turned around, and spoke. "But if you need your pound of flesh so badly, I have no problems with you killing Viserys, after what he did to his own sister he deserves to die."
Eddard left the Council chambers deep in thought, pondering what had just occurred. In truth, when Robert called his son to the council to hear his opinion. the last thing he expected was for Roland to side with him and Ser Barristan. Roland didn't want to harm Danaerys not just because she was innocent, but also because he didn't consider her to be a danger yet. The way he spoke in the council showed a side that Eddard hadn't seen before. Roland proved that he was capable of being a cold, calculating individual with a mind for strategic thinking. A little further ahead of him, he saw Roland leaning next to a window, his eyes looking out into the Blackwater Bay.
"Roland," he called out. His voice snapped the young royal back into reality and turned his head towards him.
"Lord Stark," he replied curtly
"I want to thank you for helping your father see reason-" he began. but Roland raised his hand and said. "Don't thank me yet, just because he has stayed his hand for now doesn't mean he hasn't given up on it. It is likely that he will try to find any excuse to kill Danaerys."
"You seemed to put a great deal of thought into what you said back there."
"My father has been complaining about them for as long as I can remember but I never shared my views on it until tonight. So I have had a great deal of time to think about them."
Ned nodded, but one thing puzzled him. "Has he called you into the council meeting before?"
Roland shrugged. "A couple of times, Father may do foolish things sometimes but he is far from stupid. He knows he can't trust any of them. I'm one of the few people here that he trusts because I have the courage to speak the truth to his face instead of licking his boots. He tried to bring Joffrey into a meeting once or twice in an attempt to get him to learn about ruling. But he hardly paid attention to anything said. I'm guessing he's involving me so I can serve my brother better the day he becomes king."
Eddard knew he shouldn't feel it but the idea of Joffrey on the throne made his spine cringe. but then again the boy was still young so there may be time to change him. "Thank you again Roland," he said before continuing on his way.
Roland nodded and turned his attention back to the bay saying. "I defended you against my father today Danaerys Targaryen. I hope you don't make me regret my decision."
Ned headed to Arya's chambers to talk more about her little 'adventure'. When he entered the room he found Sansa was with her.
"Father," Arya exclaimed as soon as she saw him. "We were just talking about Sansa future wedding."
"Arya is helping me decide how I should do my hair," Sansa explained.
"You should wear it loose for your wedding" Arya said. "Roland will your hair loose and free."
"You really think so?" Sansa asked hopefully.
"Roland seems to prefer Northern customs to Southern ones anyway". Arya replied reassuringly.
Ned smiled to himself. Arya had been delighted as Sansa ever since she heard of Roland's betrothal to her sister. Arya seemed very fond of Roland, she once told her that he knows what it's like to not look like his other siblings. In fact ever since she heard the news it seemed to of brought his daughters closer than ever. Now here they were laughing like maids.
"I'm glad you're marrying Roland instead of Joffrey", Arya continued. "I can't imagine you giving birth golden haired stags."
Ned looked up in shock. 'By the gods', he thought. 'out of the mouth of babes'. In that instant it was like a bright candle had been lit in his mind. Quickly he headed to his chambers and picked up the book that Jon Arryn had been reading before his death. 'The History and Lineages of the Great Houses of Westeros.' Skimming through the pages he found the part of the book that bore the Black stag of House baratheon and began reading.
Orys Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue. Married to Argella Durrendon
Mychal Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue.
Axel Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue
Boremund Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue
Borros Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue
Lyonel Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue
Gowen Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue. Married to Tya Lannister
Steffon Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue. Married to Cassana Estermont
Robert Baratheon - Black of Hair, Eyes of Blue. Married to Cersei Lannister
Joffrey Baratheon - Golden Hair, Eyes of Green.
Of the previous Baratheons, two stood out. Gowen Baratheon had also married a Lannister ninety years ago. Reading further, he found that they had a single child. A black haired blue eyed boy that died at birth. Pouring deeper into the book, he found that thirty years before that The lord of Casterly Rock took the daughter of a the lord of Storms End as a wife. They had three daughters and one son. All had black hair and blue eyes. Now for the first time in months everything became clear, Jon Arryn's death, Brandon's fall and Robert's bastard son. All the pieces had come into place. Ned finally knew the secret that would bring House Lannister crumbling down.