Hail to the Stag Kings -- Ch. VIIFandom: Game of ThronesPairing: OC x OCChapter: 7/?FF.net link: HereDescription: 800 years after the War for Westeros came to an end, the Seven Kingdoms have since been unified to become officially known as the Kingdom of Westeros. But despite having entered an industrial age, the Baratheon dynasty is threatened and now faces total collapse. Rebellion! A revolution is in the making! Prince Daemon Baratheon and his older brother King Argilac IV are the last living descendants of King Daveth I the Great. Upon ascending to monarchy, however, Argilac proves to be a tyrannical ruler—whose excessive cruelty, viciousness and despotism have caused unprecedented suffering throughout the nation. Can Daemon stop his brother and help lead the revolution to save the kingdom like his legendary ancestor did before it is too late? Or is House Baratheon doomed to suffer the same fate as its predecessor?Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Game of Thrones characters in the story or from any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Only the OCs included are mine.--------------------------Chapter 7: The Lion of Lannister—Near the Riverlands—Riding down the high road along the Mountains of the Moon, Daemon and Samson were accompanied by Ser Petyr to officially begin their first task of uniting Westeros. The young Prince's uncle and Master of Ships, Jacaerys, had already ventured to Gulltown by himself to rally his armada against his tyrannical elder nephew's fleet. Jaqoros remained in the Vale to oversee the rebel spy network. As for Petyr, he received two vital tasks from Sharra and the other high lords of the Vale: evaluate the sincerity of Prince Daemon's intentions, and partly to ensure neither Daemon nor Samson tried anything stupid.Admittedly, the travel itself was as dangerous as the task itself: shadowcats and Vale hill mountain clans, the trio had their armaments ready. Swords, lance, musket rifles, and pistols… Ser Petyr's knowledge of the high road proved useful not only for traveling safely but to effectively bypass General Gerion Lannister's massive armies."It won't be long until we reach the Riverlands now," Petyr mentioned."Any signs of the Lannisters?" Samson inquired."No. Not yet, General. Still… I recommend exercising extreme caution. King Argilac has placed quite a hefty bounty on all our heads, yours included.""Let my brother try," Daemon replied rather curtly. "The more he tightens his grip, the more support he will lose. It's only a matter of time before his efforts implode."Now normally Samson would ignore such a comment, but the way Daemon responded was unnerving. He had heard rumors surrounding his protégé and royal he had declared allegiance to and the new Lady of the Eyrie Sharra Arryn; but they were just that: rumors. Whether they had merit, Samson guessed that Daemon's thoughts would hinder his overall growth. And that was something this revolution could not afford right now—not with the civil war going on all around them. For this revolution to succeed, Daemon needed a clear judgment and to think rationally. He was still young, Samson knew that, but he had yet to test himself in the actual field of battle. By the time the trio appeared from the High Road entrance, they heard the distinctive sound of a fast-flowing stream of water."Is this…?" Daemon inquired."Yes, lad. We're no longer in the Vale," Samson confirmed. "We're on the eastern skirts of the Riverlands. I'd said we're nearing the Trident river."Petyr nodded. "You hear the stories about the Trident, even as far as the Fingers. Around 842 years ago, it was said that the fate of all Westeros would be decided here at this very place. The Battle of the Trident. Our forefathers back then consisted predominantly of soldiers of the North, Vale, Stormlands and the Riverlands as the Reach and Dorne still supported King Aerys II the Mad of House Targaryen.""I remember reading about it at the university libraries. And the lectures from Grand Maester Asten.""Correct. Your ancestor Robert Baratheon led an army comprising around 35,000 men in total—compared to the Mad King's 40,000. But what Robert's forces lacked in numbers, they made up for in battlefield experience. As the battle progressed with both sides showing no signs of gaining any ground, your ancestor fought Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen in single combat. Although Rhaegar wounded Robert, the Baratheon warlord proved too much and delivered the killing blow with his monstrous warhammer—caving in Rhaegar's breastplate so hard it shattered his rubies all around."Daemon hummed. "And thus, sealed the fate of House Targaryen and the ascension of my house to the throne. Of course, if my ancestor had not won that day, House Baratheon would not be where it stands today. Or all of us. Our houses since that day had been intertwined.""Just as we are now," Petyr noted. "But it's the Baratheons fighting each other this time.""It's been long overdue. I should have done something about my brother a long time ago than just sit back in fear and do nothing like a small, helpless child." Not just for what he did to me, but to the people of the realm… and to Sharra."You're doing so now," Samson reassured him. "Try not to be too hard on—""Wait! Look over there! Smoke!" Petyr exclaimed with an alarm.Samson and Daemon immediately turned in the direction Petyr was pointing at and both expressed surprise to see an enormous cloud of smoke emanating from several yards away, showing trouble was nearby. Clicking their tongues, all three motioned for their horses to speed up along the kingsroad down the Ruby Ford of the Trident. It was a long ride, but something would forever sear the scene that greeted them into their brains for a long time.Upon arriving, it was a scene of total carnage. What was once the historical tourist attraction, the Inn at the Crossroads was reduced to a smoldering husk with burning embers still present; bodies of civilians—men, women, and children—laid about in a mass pileup near mass graves. It wasn't just murder; it was an outright slaughter."Oh my Gods…" Daemon gasped. He felt a tightening sensation in the pit of his stomach."Not even the children were spared. What level of atrocity," Samson examined the slaughter."Professor, is there… is there a chance someone—anyone—could still be alive?""I don't think so, lad. Whoever did this must have made sure there was little to no room left for doubt.""But who? Who could have done this?"You'll only need one guess, Samson thought. His gut instinct suspected it was the Lannisters, but no banners were flying, no soldiers anywhere… Whatever came through here, they just missed it. But Samson found footprints trekking through the mud nearby; they aligned in near-perfect unison, side-by-side in marching formation as he examined the corpses. "Some stabs, puncture wounds… Likely caused by swords or lance. I see some gashes on the hands as well… one of the sorry bastards tried to fight back. Had no chance.""Why would…?"Petyr was the furthest off, lowering his head in silent prayer. He wasn't religious, but the Brotherhood of Winged Knight soldier felt it courteous to the fallen. A lot of these bodies would need a proper burial, their next of kin notified… if they had any at all. But as he rose, he saw a slight movement out of the corner of his left eye."H-help… m-me…" the man gasped. He was bloodied; badly wounded and his uniform torn.Petyr rushed over the examined the silent cry for help. As he raised the man's head, his eyes widened with disbelief. His uniform—although torn—matched the sigil of House Arryn; light-blue coloring with feathers donned upon his sleeve. It was him! This is the man they've been looking for. "HEY! We got a live one!" he shouted.Daemon and Samson immediately snapped their heads towards Petyr and rushed over as fast as they could. Both men knelt beside the dying man as he gargled and gasped for air."It's him! It's Ambassador Tycho." Petyr returned his attention to him."S… Ser P-Petyr…?" Tycho gasped."Yes, friend. It's me. Don't worry. We've got some bandages in our pack. We'll get you patched up and—"Samson examined him closely. "Multiple stab wounds caused by repeated knife strikes. Chest, stomach, intestines… even some lacerations near the femoral artery. I'm sorry, Petyr, but your ambassador doesn't have much time left.""But—!""N-no… He-he's right. I… I've lost too much blood… Th-there were so many…""I'm sorry we couldn't get here fast enough," Daemon pressed his hands on the open wounds. "Please, tell us what you know…. If you can."Tycho felt disoriented; if these were going to be his last words, then he'd put them to use and pass on his knowledge—even if the information he possessed could be one day vital. "L… Lady Arryn sent me to… to negotiate an alliance… with-with Edmyn Tully… th-the Lord of Riverrun and…. L-Lord Paramount of the Trident.""Lady Myranda was his sister and heir and Riverrun's representative at parliament.""Y-yes… Wh-when we heard of… of her execution, Lady Arryn suspected… the Vale would be targeted next. So she… she tasked me with th-this mission. Without the Riverlands' fertile farmlands… our people will starve.""And Argilac and Gerion's troops will continue to march unopposed until all who stand against them are laid to waste," Petyr suspected."Y-yes…"Damn you, brother. Damn you to the deepest corner of the Seventh Hell! Daemon felt himself growing increasingly more disgusted the more he hears it. "But… what happened here?"Tycho turned to the Prince. "I… stopped only for a day's rest… But then I heard screaming…!""Easy, easy," Samson hushed. "Don't force yourself too much. Now, calmly explain to us what you just saw.""Ser Loreon Lannister and h-his men ambushed us… Th-they lined us all up… demanded answers when we had none… then they started…. killing everyone! Burned the whole inn to the ground! The inn owner's lad tried to stop them, but… Ser Loreon cut him down like he w-was nothing. He wasn't even armed…"Daemon turned to Samson. "Who is this Ser Loreon?" he asked."General Gerion Lannister's son and a major in the Royal Army," he answered. "Pompous and arrogant, he is the heir to his father's lands and titles. But don't be fooled: Loreon is an experienced battle commander, and his skill with a blade is not to be trifled with as he's easily worth the strength of 20 men. The man is a dangerous warrior—which is why none are to face him in one-on-one combat.""P-Please…" Tycho pleaded; his energy was quickly fading. "…without an alliance, I… I fear what will happen to… to my countrymen. I… I failed Lady Arryn…""No, you didn't fail anyone," the Prince interjected. "We're not done yet. We'll finish your mission for you. What's the quickest route to Riverrun from here?""And we need to do so without running into the bulk of the Lannister army," Samson agreed.The dying ambassador slowly raised a hand. "T-that way," he directed, pointing his finger west. "F-follow the Red Fork… and y-you can approach R-Riverrun… from behind," he choked before handing the group a scrolled-up parchment sealed with wax. "Take this… Deliver it to… to Lord Edmyn."Daemon nodded. "We'll deliver the message to Lord Tully… or die trying. I swear it by the Old Gods and the New, my lord ambassador. We'll get you and the Vale into this alliance.""T-Thank you. And… tell… tell Lady Arryn… I-I'm sorry…" he gasped before finally slumping over; his body was completely lifeless. It was a miracle he even lasted this long, despite his wounds.Petyr stood. He gripped his double-edged longsword tightly; the falcon-head pommel barely tapping the side of his silvered plate armor. "You will be avenged, wise sage. May the Father judge you justly, Lord Ambassador Tycho of House Corbray," he stood. "King Argilac will pay for this outrage!"'Av… enge… us' were the words of the late Lord Grandison echoing through his head as a reminder of hs elder brother's atrocities. Daemon stood. "Yeah, well, get in line," he huffed. "My hatred for my brother runs far deeper than yours.""ENOUGH!" Samson stood to his feet. "There will be no quarreling between you two. You heard what the late ambassador said. There's another route to Riverrun from here that'll get us there without us ever acccidently running into the Lannsiter forces. Without an alliance, the Riverlands and Vale of Arryn have no chance. The realm will continue to suffer at Argilac's hands. Even our fleets cannot hold them off forever, and we need more men if we're to form a veritable army united behind one leader with a singular purpose. We can't do that if we're constantly at each other's throats! So, we're not. Fighting. Each other. Anymore! Do I make myself clear?"Both Daemon and Petyr flinched at the professor's booming, commanding tone. "Yes, General," they said simultaneously.Samson sighed. "Not much we can do for these people… and any burial will be too time consuming. If we hurry, we should reach Riverrun in less than a day and a half.""If the horses last the long-forced march.""It's risky, so let's make this count…."—At Harrenhal—Within the ruins of Harrenhal, the largest castle in Westeros, the golden lions of House Lannister hung on the walls as soldiers loyal to King Argilac and General Gerion drank a toast in celebration of their triumph over the rebels. The Battle at Harrenhal ended with an overwhelming victory for the loyalists; almost the entire rebel forces were utterly wiped out, including some defectors and other high-ranking officers loyal to House Tully.Every child of the Trident knew the tales told of Harrenhal, the vast fortress that King Harren the Black had raised beside the waters of Gods Eye nearly one thousand years ago, when the Kingdom of Westeros today had been seven individual realms, and the Riverlands were ruled by the ironborn from the Iron Islands. In his pride, Harren had desired the highest hall and tallest towers in all Westeros. 40 years it had taken, rising like a great shadow on the shore of the lake while Harren's armies plundered his neighbors for stone, lumber, gold, and workers. Thousands of captives died in his quarries, chained to his sled, or laboring on his five colossal towers. Men froze by winter and sweltered in summer. Weirwoods that had stood for almost 4,000 years were cut down for beams and rafters. Harren had beggared the Riverlands and the Iron Islands alike to ornament his dream. And when at last Harrenhal stood complete, on the very day King Harren took up residence, Aegon the Conqueror had come ashore at King's Landing. Harren and all his line had perished in the fires that engulfed his monstrous fortress, and every house that held Harrenhal since had come to misfortune. Strong it might be, but it was a dark place and cursed.The way the Lannister soldiers sang was almost deafening.And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low? Only a cat of a different coat, that's all the truth I know.Seated at the main table with his legs crossed on top, Ser Loreon Lannister confidently sipped his wine as his troops celebrated. Artillery, cavalry, mortar fire… but Loreon's favorite remained to get in close with his longsword Lion's Roar to get the job done; in the battle, he must have felled over 50 men—either by the blade or firing his flintlock.In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws, And mine are long and sharp, my lord, as long and sharp as yours."It is a great day, my lord. The rebels have been completely routed," said a Lannister captain, raising his voice enough for his commanding officer to hear him over the singing. "Harrenhal, the strongest castle in Westeros, belongs to us now."And so he spoke, and so he spoke, that lord of Castamere,"And the river lords are wide open to attack. Still… a tad bit disappointing, it was too easy. No challenge at all," Loreon replied, feeling bored. "What else do you have to report, captain?""We found Lord Edmyn Tully, my lord.""Good. Bring him to me.""I… he's dead, ser. Mortar fire while we laid siege," he replied. He had his men bring forth a stinky bundle, reeking of decomposition and ash. With a snap of his fingers, the bag unfolded—unveiling dismembered body parts. "This is what's left of him."Loreon's face scrunched at the stench. "Mmm!" he then spotted Tully's signet ring on a dislocated finger. "Yes, that's him alright. The sorry old man never stood a chance against the realm's finest. Now the river lords are without their trout master, they'll be completely helpless against us lions. The Riverlands are now ripe for the taking.""Yes, my lord—"A messenger then ran into the room. "Pardon the interruption, sers!" he apologized."What is it now?" inquired Loreon."Our scouts have just reported back. Private Enslin informed us that the Northmen have crossed the Neck. They're on their way here.""How many men?""About 40,000 troops, ser; including cannons and mortars. They are under the command of Ser Rodrick Stark and his brother Ser Brandon Stark."The wolf who ran away now returns with his pack. "Ahh, the Winter Wolves – the fiercest, most ferocious fighting force in the North. The finest warriors House Stark has ever produced… and the traitors who fled King's Landing avoiding King Argilac's justice," Loreon smirked. "Which way are they heading?""To Riverrun, ser."But now the rains weep o'er his hall, with no one there to hear.Loreon initially made a blank expression before shifting into a serious one, full of confidence in his chances at acquiring yet another military victory and the opportunity to face-off against the heir to Winterfell, Ser Rodrick Stark. Stark is one of the North's strongest warriors who were once its prominent politicians at parliament before its dissolution but was luckily one of the very few to escape captivity and return home to muster a large army to march south. Named after the Northmen who supported the claim of Rhaenyra Targaryen centuries ago, the Winter Wolves were considered the North's elite military forces who led the vanguard of every major campaign; to put on the wolf pelt was considered a great honor.Yes now the rains weep o'er his hall, and not a soul to hear.The Lannister knight rose from his seat abruptly, causing the singing to immediately stop. "The wolf rushes into the lion's jaws. So be it," he said. His confidence even suggested he was well and truly capable of defeating both the Tullys and Starks in one fell swoop. "Captain, command the drummers beat assembly. I want a full night's march before the rebels know we're on the move.""Yes, my lord," the officer replied."And send word to the capital. Tell my father and His Grace that I'm moving against Rodrick Stark.""At once, my lord."Once the officer sprang out of the room, Loreon stared at his men. "Listen up!" he commanded, causing his troops to immediately fall into line. "We have those rebel scum on the run. Scattered, bloodied, broken… but the hunt is not over yet. Let no man forget how menacing we are! We are lions! The Lion's Pride!""Lion's Pride, a'ooo!" they rallied."You see that outside these walls?" he pointed his blade out the window beyond the horizon. "Glory! Immortality! Our victory will be carved in stone, forever recorded in the annals of history! Take it! It's yours!""A'ooo! A'ooo!""Now… the time has come to crush this uprising once and for all. All forces to Riverrun!""A'OOO! A'OOO!"
Hail to the Stag Kings -- Ch. VIFandom: Game of ThronesPairing: OC x OCChapter: 6/?FF.net link: HereDescription: 800 years after the War for Westeros came to an end, the Seven Kingdoms have since been unified to become officially known as the Kingdom of Westeros. But despite having entered an industrial age, the Baratheon dynasty is threatened and now faces total collapse. Rebellion! A revolution is in the making! Prince Daemon Baratheon and his older brother King Argilac IV are the last living descendants of King Daveth I the Great. Upon ascending to monarchy, however, Argilac proves to be a tyrannical ruler—whose excessive cruelty, viciousness and despotism have caused unprecedented suffering throughout the nation. Can Daemon stop his brother and help lead the revolution to save the kingdom like his legendary ancestor did before it is too late? Or is House Baratheon doomed to suffer the same fate as its predecessor?Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Game of Thrones characters in the story or from any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Only the OCs included are mine.--------------------------Chapter 6: The Vale of Arryn—Near Gulltown—"We should be within sight of Gulltown soon, Your Highness," called out a rebel sailor.About time. "Very good, ensign," Daemon acknowledged as he stared into the distance. They had been sailing over 410 miles for the past four days since departing Driftmark. Having rid himself of his past indecision, he had his sights set on rendezvousing at the rebels' base of operations in the Vale: the Eyrie.Although his men-at-arms were vastly smaller and limited in numbers compared to Argilac's army, these rebels were mostly comprised of volunteer forces recruited from his vassals sworn directly to Dragonstone, but by daybreak, Ser Jacaerys had gained an additional 800 longships and 200 war galleys for his younger nephew's navy—bringing the total amount of ships to approximately 1,200. If the rumors were true, then this would give Daemon a significant advantage over his brother by sea. Being the Master of Ships and Lord Admiral of the Royal Fleet, Ser Jacaerys still carried a great deal of influence among those who knew him best and could win over more sailors to the Prince's side. He will put them to good use as the rebels' top naval commander."The smallfolk are calling this civil war the 'Clash of Antlers'. Much like the Targaryen's Dance of the Dragons almost a thousand years ago," Jaqoros spoke up."Only there were dragons back then, not modern artillery," remarked Samson. Now acting in his capacity as Master of War, the professor had come out of retirement to assume the position as Grand General of the rebel army. Even on the deck of Second Wind, Samson spent much of his time training the volunteer troops in the art of warfare. As a veteran, his years of combat experience were essential. These people were recruits and had never held either a blade or firearm in their lives. "Sergeant! Do not pull any punches with this lot. These cadets need to prepare for an actual fight, not a practice one.""Yes, General," the soldier acknowledged.Samson turned his attention to his colleague. "Have your spies turned up anything?" he inquired."My little birds report unusual activity in the Riverlands, though not much else. Stoney Sept, the Golden Tooth, Maidenpool… any contacts I have had installed there have gone silent. I suspect the Lannisters are responsible for it on Argilac's behalf, but until we know more… I cannot be certain. Perhaps House Arryn could tell us more.""Lady Alayne has been our greatest supporter."Jaqoros nodded in agreement. "Did you hear what else the people are calling him?""Who?" asked Samson."Prince Daemon. Already the word has spread about his coronation at Driftmark. They're calling him 'the King in the Narrow Sea' – distinguishing himself from his older brother, the King on the Andalosinian Throne.""Daemon is young, able, and willing, but he still has a long way to go compared to his older brother—who fought on the frontlines with most of us during the last armed conflict. Argilac might be insane, but when it comes to combat experience… that is where he vastly outshines Daemon. He must cajole, make the necessary sacrifices… and he will need to get his hands dirty if left with no other option. Here, in this war, he'll be overwhelmed with all three choices at the same time.""But it is our duty as his advisors to ensure he doesn't have to bear most of the burden entirely on his shoulders, no?""And lend our experience where his own is lacking.""It is as you said, old friend. Prince Daemon is young but inexperienced. Where he lacks in prowess as a warrior, he at least makes up for it in diplomacy."Samson huffed. "Still it would be unwise to underestimate Baratheon men. They are fast learners in combat. When they get serious, it is as if instinct itself takes over and consumes them. Trust me, Lord Jaqoros. I have seen it myself firsthand 34 years ago during the War against the Band of Twelve. I still remember seeing King Ormund, wielding that monstrous war hammer high in the air. Every time his hammer struck the ground, it felt as if the world itself trembled before his might."Jaqoros shuddered. "Eugh. I still remember hearing the reports of the old Westerosi king, even from across the Narrow Sea. 'A one-man army,' 'the strongest man alive', 'flee-on-sight if one should ever encounter the old stag.' That's what the Sealord told me.""And yet you served him," Samson pointed out."We all did," the Braavosi responded. "When one seeks an opportunity, often it lies before their eyes – but sadly is often overlooked. Having such close connections grants one access to much more than what we already have. It's something a Westerosi wouldn't understand.""Only a Braavosi?""No. I learned that during my employment with the Iron Bank."Jacaerys, ignoring his colleagues' banter, stared beyond the horizon when land became started becoming visible followed by a silhouette of a large walled city. Gulltown, the Vale's largest port, it remained as the fourth largest city behind King's Landing, Oldtown, and Lannisport. The port was a historically important port and economically vital to the Vale, its sheltered harbor offering anchorage to ships traveling from King's Landing to Braavos or the North. Its strategic location means it never lacks for trade in many of the exotic goods making their way from across the Narrow Sea, keeping the Vale supplied even when the passes of the Mountains of the Moon are closed in winter."Land ho!" he called out. "All hands, prepare to dock!" Let us hope Lady Arryn received our letter.Daemon snapped out of it. "So here we are… Gulltown.""We should— wait, there's something strange going on."The Prince and observed what his uncle was looking at. Indeed, there seemed to be an unusually rather large crowd forming near the port's dock. Commoners, merchants and nobles alike were looking on with curiosity, but mostly suspicion. As the crew slowly disembarked, Daemon felt an uneasy tension in the air. Escorted by his uncle, Samson, and Jaqoros, the Prince contemplated that there would already be an unwelcome scenario given his familial ties with Argilac; Seven hells, this would be a lot tougher than he thought. He needs the Vale's support. He needs House Arryn's support. He needs the people's support."Look, mommy! It's him," a little girl whispered."THAT's the supposed savior? Huh! How is one Baratheon supposed to make a difference?" one merchant scoffed."He shouldn't even be here," uttered a local lord."He'll bring the King's wrath down upon us," another chatted.My ancestors would be ashamed to see how far our house has fallen. Damn you, brother. This is all your fault, Daemon thought. "Easy now, everyone. Please. Just hear me out," he beckoned. "For those of you who don't know me well, my name is Prince Daemon of House Baratheon, second son of Queen Shiera the Pure, the Third of Her Name. I come to you under the banner of peace. I mean you no harm.""That will be up to Lady Arryn to decide," a knight approached with a contingency of guardsmen. "For the time being, you will surrender your weapons and have your ships anchored. Local port authority dictates that uninvited vessels are to be inspected for… 'illegal contraband.'""How dare you! Do we look like smugglers to you, lad?" Jacaerys accused rather offended."Local port authority dictates—""We heard you the first time. And we're telling you no. Who's to say you won't try anything? We're not surrendering our weapons without House Arryn's say-so and we're not letting you seize our ships, nor will we tolerate you treating us like criminals. We've done nothing wrong."The guardsmen pointed their muskets at them. "If you refuse to cooperate, then we will have no choice but to—""Wait!" Daemon shouted. "We wish to plead our case to Lady Alayne Arryn."The guards were immediately silenced; the onlookers began whispering and murmuring amongst themselves—most appeared to be visibly grief stricken if not somewhat offended by the blatant disrespect at the mere mention of that name. Aside from Daemon, Samson and Jaqoros sensed something was amiss whereas Jacaerys remained adamantly defiant towards the port authorities."How dare he…" one lord uttered.Daemon blinked. "Did… did something happen?" he asked, now concerned.One guard pointed the tip of his lance at the Prince. "HOW DARE YOU SPEAK OUR LADY'S NAME—!""Men! Stand down!" one of the Brotherhood of Winged Knights approached.The crowd acknowledged the elite Vale knightly order approaching and stood aside to let them pass. The hostile guardsmen barely noticed until one Brotherhood rode to the front atop his horse. This knight was physically attractive with sandy hair, deep blue eyes. Daemon observed this strange man standing before him. He has an aquiline nose and looked every inch of a young lord-in-waiting: straight as a lance, clean-limbed, and hard with muscle; he wore white armor decorated with a blue sash depicting the red and white diamond arms of House Hardyng and the moon-and-falcon sigil of House Arryn."And you are…?" Samson inquired."Ser Petyr of House Hardying, major in the Brotherhood of Winged Knights," he introduced himself. "No need to tell us who you are. Nearly the entire Vale has heard of your accomplishments on the Stepstones, General Samson."The crowd gasped."'General Samson'? The Samson?" one chattered."Samson the Tenacious!""I thought he retired."Samson sighed. He hated it when people started worshipping him. "Yes, yes. I'm Samson. Consider me out of retirement for the sake of this damn civil war.""What brings you to the Vale?" Petyr inquired."I've been named as Prince Daemon's Master of War and Grand General of the revolution's troops. As I'm sure he repeatedly said, we've come seeking an audience with Lady Arryn. But clearly, something is amiss. Might I ask why?"Petyr sighed. "Perhaps… it would be best for you lot to come with me to the Vale's Monorail Station. The next one departs for the Eyrie from here. We'll talk more once we arrive there, not here." He turned. "Let's go. The next monorail car is scheduled to leave in 30 minutes.""What about—?" Daemon tried to speak."My cousin Sharra has asked for you," the Young Falcon interrupted. "Don't keep her waiting."Daemon immediately kept quiet for the rest of the trip to Gull Tower. Upon being granted permission from House Shett, the group accompanied Petyr and his contingent into the monorail car. Constructed over 100 years ago under the supervision of Lord Reginald Arryn, the Vale's Monorail Station was designed to accelerate travel speed from one section of the region to the other in less than half the time rather than take the high road on foot. Centuries ago, the Vale was nothing but mountains and valleys, now people queuing up to ride the monorail to get to where they want to go. Although Daemon was rather excited to ride the monorail for the first time, the only mistake he ever made was by looking out the monorail car's window where he saw nothing but dense cloud and the mountains below. By the Gods, they were so high in the air! A six-hundred-foot drop to the stones of the valley below. The Prince immediately felt nauseous and looked away.—At the Eyrie—A few hours had passed, but the monorail car arrived at the Bloody Gate; as expected, the Vale maintained a high military presence there. Whether it's to repel an incursion from Argilac's army or the Mountain hilltop tribesmen, security was high. All passengers had to undergo a thorough background check to prevent potential spies from entering. Beyond the Bloody Gate lies the Eyrie, ancestral seat of House Arryn, at the top of the Giant's Lance in the Mountains of the Moon."We have arrived," Petyr pointed.Daemon stood in awe at the Eyrie. One of the great castles in the realm, the Eyrie consisted of a cluster of seven slim white towers made of fine white stone bunched tightly together. Each tower encircled a garden, which had been meant as a godswood, but no weirwood heart tree would take root due to the castle's stony soil. Samson estimated the Eyrie's barracks and stables were carved directly into the mountain, aside from the sound of Alyssa's Tears flooding his ears from a distance."Impressive, isn't it?" Jaqoros asked.Samson hummed. "The mountains are impassable. If you want to get to the Eyrie, you need to go through the Bloody Gate. According to legends, say the Eyrie is impregnable.""Exactly, General," Petyr agreed. "We Valemen know every inch of the terrain better than anyone else ever could. And we know how to use them. Not even King Argilac would make it past this point. It doesn't matter how large your army is or how well supplied or funded you are if you attack this gate, you do it on this road, three men abreast and get slaughtered like goats," he explained tactically."But should one overcome the Bloody Gate guarding the high road, then the Gates of the Moon stands as the Eyrie's last line of defense – but even then the narrow goat trail is guarded by three waycastles: Stone, Snow, and Sky. Know your strengths, use them wisely, and one man can be worth 10,000. It's something Lieutenant Reynold Hardyng understood at the Stepstones.""You knew my father?" the Winged Knight raised an eyebrow in surprise."Aye. Served under my command with distinction," Samson nodded. "One of the finest, honorable young men I ever met. A lot of lives depended on us reaching Bloodstone and Grey Gallows that day. But to do so, one of us had to stay behind to hold off the pirate kings. It was a tough call I had to make, and it wasn't done casually. Your father gave his life so that others might live. Without him, we never would have been able to stop Malaqual Zha. Lieutenant Reynold died a hero. You should be proud of him."Petyr appeared despondent, but overall pleased with getting the full story. He never got the chance to meet his father as he died long before he was born. As the group was escorted from the monorail car and passed by several passengers/refugees, they were soon met by a bald, massive, barrel-chested man wearing a greying beard."Who would pass the Bloody Gate?" he inquired."Major Petyr Hardyng of the Brotherhood of Winged Knights," the Young Falcon responded. "And accompanying me are Ser Jacaerys Velaryon the Master of Ships, Lord Jaqoros Hestohr the Master of Whisperers, General Samson the Master of War, and… Prince Daemon Baratheon. My lady cousin Sharra Arryn has requested them personally by name."Daemon looked at the large, intimidating man. He gruffly examined them all as numerous Vale archers perched high atop the mountain ridges aimed rifles and crossbows at them – waiting for the order to strike."Stand to," the knight ordered."Stand to!" echoed an archer."Stand to!" chimed a sharpshooter."Welcome back, major."Petyr nodded as the Bloody Gate slowly began to open rather noisily. As the Winged Knight was the first to press forward, Daemon, Samson, Jacaerys, and Jaqoros followed close behind. Once they ascended the goat trail and entered the Eyrie, they noticed a rather large assembly in the Crescent Chamber, the castle's reception hall before arriving at the High Hall. The main chamber was a long and austere hall with walls made of blue-veined white marble. Daemon noticed several Vale nobles staring at him, making him feel relatively uneasy.They don't like me, the Prince noticed. I don't understand. What did I do to them? I'm nothing like my brother. I'm not Argilac.But what eventually caught Daemon's attention was the sight of Sharra Arryn sitting on the throne of the Arryns carved from weirwood. By the Gods, she looked beautiful than the last time he saw her. Sharra wore a white silk dress trimmed with fox fur befitting a highborn lady of her status, with long open wing-like blue sleeves hanging down below the arms that loop around back up to attach to the brooch in the middle of her chest, the moon-and-falcon of House Arryn pendant around her neck, ringlets on her fingers and the Falcon Crown of Mountain and Vale on her head.But… Sharra looked so worn out. Exhausted, stressed. Standing by her side were her chief primary advisors Ser Rupert Royce, Lady Anya Waynwood, and Lord Tavion Corbray."My lords and ladies," Petyr cleared his throat. "I hereby present to you my dearest cousin, Lady Sharra of House Arryn, Defender of the Vale and Wardeness of the East."Daemon blinked. Wait, what? Sharra? You are ruling the Vale? "Sharra," he spoke silently."My honored guests. Welcome to my humble home," Sharra greeted them. "May we offer you some wine or food? You must be weary after such a long journey.""You're very kind to offer, my lady, but no thank you," Jaqoros declined."State your purpose," Rupert demanded."Manners, ser," Sharra hushed.Daemon stepped forward, giving a polite courtesy and cleared his throat. "Yes, well… I'm sure you're already aware of this. My brother's gone too far this time. But now that we're at war, I was hoping we could join forces to remove Argilac from the Andalosinian Throne.""And how would we believe that what you say is actually sincere?" Anya suspected. "You are of the King's blood, that is beyond dispute. But your brother has made numerous attempts to invade our lands by force. We've been fighting him off since.""I… wasn't aware of that, my lady.""Two of your companions here have been licking Argilac's boots these past four years and now decide to change allegiances when it suits them," Tavion said, referring to Jaqoros and Jacaerys. "Had we been informed of their intentions to defect beforehand, had the Braavosi foreigner Jaqoros and Ser Jacaerys done the right thing earlier and not later, no one would have cared. But only after Queen Shiera died, after we learned of your brother brutally disbanding parliament and having several delegates put to death for doing their solemn duty, did our confidence in House Baratheon fade.""I'm not my brother, Lord Corbray.""Argilac's recently been making a play to seize the Riverlands and deprive your troops of crops, hence the overall frustration, no?" Jaqoros mentioned. Before any could speak, he cut them off. "My little birds are everywhere, from as far east as the Free Cities to nearly every corner of Westeros. I have to know things, otherwise, I'd be a rather poor Master of Whisperers.""You need crops, I have a navy of my own," Daemon pressed. "We can engage in philosophical debate 'til the end of time, my lords and ladies, but the more we bicker amongst ourselves, the more damage Argilac inflicts than he already has." He glanced back at his advisors before returning his gaze towards Sharra. "What happened at King's Landing was only just the beginning. We need your help. We need the Vale's support. Anything you can spare."Sharra observed her childhood friend closely. As much as she wanted to help without hesitation, the Flower of the Vale knew some of her vassals were rather reserved; stubborn and would not give their aid willingly as she would. "I'm afraid each of us faces a similar situation, Prince Daemon. Even as we speak, our scouts report that Argilac plans on making another push on our borders," she said. "If we rush to lend you our armies blindly, our defenses at home will be left vulnerable.""But Sharra—""You will address her as 'Lady Arryn'," Anya scolded."I apologize, my lady. Shar… ahem, I mean, Lady Arryn and I have been close since childhood.""Yes, we all know how close you two are, how fondly she speaks of you. Lady Arryn's personal affairs is her own business. But her asking for our help is our affair."Sharra didn't like how viciously her advisors were grilling Daemon. She wanted to rebuke them, but she needs their experience and counsel."Even if we were to unite our forces, do you believe we stand a chance? As it stands, King Argilac outnumbers our troops and militiamen on the frontlines 3-to-1, he has the backing of the Reach – the most fertile region in Westeros, and General Gerion Lannister leading his armies," Rupert raised the question."I don't expect you to follow blindly without a plan," Daemon said. "General Samson?"Samson nodded. "As Prince Daemon has said, whereas Argilac wields the advantage on land, we hold the advantage by sea. We start small and build upon that bit-by-bit. So far, as Master of War, everything I've been doing with our troops and recruits is merely delaying Argilac's men until the opportune moment presents itself. His men will most likely target the major strongholds in the Riverlands, which should give our smaller forces some room to maneuver.""And then what?" Tavion pressed."Our ships should be able to prevent Argilac's fleet from harassing our troops on the mainland. Keeping them distracted until we cut them off from their provisions, which won't be easy," Jacaerys explained. "More recently, we've got more than 1/3rd of the Royal Army defecting from the King's cause. The senior officers could provide useful intel on General Gerion's next move.""The man is ruthless as he is dangerous," Rupert stated. "The scale to pull off a feat against one of the nation's brilliant military generals would be quite an undertaking.""Not quite. Everyone has a weakness," Samson refuted. "And if there's even a chink in Gerion's armor, then we can exploit it. If we work together.""The reports are dire enough as it is. If we throw everything we have and lose… what then? It's a fool's errand. Your proposals are flawed."Daemon felt himself growing increasingly irritated. "Do you have a better one? If so, then let's hear it," he challenged, stunning the senior Vale nobility. Silence. No? That's what I thought. You old fossils haven't been down on the ground to see the overall carnage long enough. Picking up on it, the Prince pressed further. "I've seen the terror Argilac is capable of firsthand my whole life. I know what my brother is capable of better than any of you combined. If he doesn't get what he wants, if he can't control something, if he can't break someone to bend to his will, he'll destroy them root and stem. And he won't stop with you or the revolutionist movement. If we're to ever make it through this civil war, then we need to stand together as our forefathers have done before. Jon Arryn, Eddard Stark, Robert Baratheon… they rebelled against an evil tyrant 800 years ago and persevered to restore peace. It's because of them that any of us are still around to talk about it even some of us had forgotten. If we work together, we can do it again. Here. With us. With this generation."Sharra nodded in agreement. She curled her fingers beneath her chin as Daemon's open beratement and subsequent plea for unity caused much of the Vale's assembled nobles to stir and gossip amongst themselves once more. As the sun began to set behind the mountains, they were presented with a choice: band together as one against a common enemy… or risk total annihilation. The Lady of the Eyrie then noticed Rupert, Anya, and Tavion whispering to each other before Anya gave her opinion silently. Sharra simply sat on her throne and listened. After much discussion, she sighed and shook her head in disbelief."As compelling as your arguments have been, Prince Daemon," Anya stated, "the cruel and unfortunate truth is that we simply cannot give support your cause at this time. Our borders must come first.""What?" Samson reacted with disappointment.Are you fucking shitting me right now?! Daemon thought bitterly."If we can be guaranteed that another incursion will not occur once more, we may consider aiding you," Rupert suggested.Tavion nodded. "We apologize if this was something you did not wish to hear, but this is the hard truth. Honesty is all we can offer. The Vale cannot make a promise of military aid that we simply cannot keep."Such a sad day when our supposed allies turn their backs on us, Jaqoros lamented. If the revolutionists could not acquire the backing they need, then the rebellion is doomed to fail before it gets a chance to begin."Laina," Sharra called out to one of her handmaidens, "see to it that our guests have a place to sleep tonight.""At once, my lady," she curtsied.The Vale noble ladies obeyed their lady's request and ushered Jacaerys, Jaqoros, and Samson to their assigned quarters. Petyr remained behind along with the rest of his Winged Knight brethren to maintain the necessary security and go over strategy once more. The other nobles quietly left until the high hall was empty. Daemon, however, shook his head and threw his hands up in disbelief. But before he could leave… he heard Sharra call out to him."Daemon, meet me in my chambers when you can tonight," she said before leaving.Nightfall…By the time it was night, most occupants were asleep… save for one.« …You must keep moving… »Daemon carried a lit candle through the halls of the Eyrie. He never slept a wink, aside from another bout of his strange dreams of a raven with three eyes again, but also from having to be dealt with a first blow when the Vale's leading nobles declined to help him against his brother's army. He grumbled slightly under his breath until he found the bedchamber of the Defender of the Eyrie. Daemon rubbed his eyes to get the sleep out before raising a hand against the wooden door.*KNOCK, KNOCK!*"Enter," a feminine voice called out.Gripping the door handle, Daemon turned and pushed the door open and closed behind him. When he turned to face her, Sharra was standing in front of a mirror brushing her hair. She wore a thin bedgown to cover herself before going to bed. If Daemon wasn't too bothered with recent events, he'd compliment her many times over until her face turned a beat shade of red. Now… not so much. Both have changed since the escape. One was tasked with leading a rebellion, the other bore the responsibility of ruling an entire region by themselves."So… Lady of the Eyrie, huh?" Daemon inquired.Sharra turned to face her childhood friend. "It's… complicated," she set her brush down and stood up to gaze out the window. "But what about you? 'The King in the Narrow Sea'?""Ah, Seven hells, not you too…""Relax, Daemon. I didn't bring you here just to tease you." Sharra allowed herself a small smile – even if her thoughts were trouble. "Still… I am glad you're here.""Really? It was hard to tell. Your 'advisors' really fucked me hard back there.""Language.""Sorry. Just been under a lot of stress lately.""We all have.""How could they be so blind? You'd think we'd all be on the same side.""It's not that simple. My advisors meant well, but they have their way of showing it. I'm the Lady of the Eyrie now; people are looking to me for guidance. Their well-being is my utmost priority. Any minor disagreement based on principle could split the Vale in two," She turned to sit down on the bed. "I… simply cannot afford to be selfish right now. No matter how much I might want to…" Sharra lowered her face to avoid his gaze.Daemon felt something was wrong and approached Sharra. Bending down on one knee, he gently cupped her chin to get her to face him at eye-level. Indeed, he could see something was bothering her. "Are you okay? What's wrong?" he asked concerned.Sharra exhaled shakily. "No. No, I'm really not. My… my mother is dead, Daemon," she confessed. "She passed away a couple of days ago. Now four million lives rest on my shoulders."Now he felt bad. Ah, shit. "I'm so sorry, Sharra. I didn't know. How did it happen?""Mother was ill for some time. She fought it for as long as she could, but…" Sharra shook her head. "To be honest, I've never felt so alone as I do now…"Daemon pulled her in for a hug. For a moment, it felt as if the world's problems were briefly washed away. Sharra relaxed a bit and returned the hug, with Daemon massaging her back and whispering reassuring words."Thank you. I'll be alright. Really," she exhaled and pulled away. "But you have more pressing matters than listening to me complain." Sharra stood up. "I called you here because I have something important that might be of use to you.""Really?" the Prince's curiosity was peaked."While my advisors were right about this morning, I can't give you what you need… BUT I can tell you how to get it.""Go on. I'm listening. What do I have to do?"Always so eager to dive headfirst into trouble, consequences be damned. That's just like you, Sharra reflected. "Before my mother's passing, we've dispatched an envoy on a sensitive diplomatic mission to Riverrun. Ambassador Tycho. Trouble is, he hasn't reported back for quite some time. We don't even know if he's even alive. I try not to worry, but… I can't help but suspect the Lannisters were somehow involved when they invaded Maidenpool.""What was this envoy of yours meant to do?" Daemon pressed."He was tasked with building an alliance between my house and Lord Edmyn Tully, Lady Myranda's brother. In exchange for providing food and a supply chain for our troops, the Riverlands would get the full military support of the Vale in addition to the North's. Ambassador Tycho is an essential diplomat. We can't proceed without him.""Why not send in the—?"Sharra cut him off. "Sending in the knights of the Vale would attract too much attention. A small strike team would be able to bypass the Lannister armies and sneak into the Riverlands almost undetected. But it is not just House Arryn or the Tullys. Each leader of the Great Houses will be the ones who decide our future. Our troops, where they fight, and with whom. From there, everything else falls into place.""Nothing's ever simple, isn't it? Military or politics, huh?" Daemon raised an eyebrow."No, Daemon, nothing ever is. But if it gets you what you need, does it matter?" she replied."Where was your ambassador last seen?""Our scouts report he was seen heading towards Harrenhal.""I'll find him, Sharra. We'll go to the Riverlands first thing in the morning. I promise."Sharra smiled. "Thank you, Daemon." She turned to stare out the window overlooking the Mountains of the Moon as the light of the full moon shined brightly. Daemon leans on the railing beside her; she is quick to become aware of his presence. "It is a beautiful sight, isn't it?" she asked, leaning her head on his shoulder."The view's nice, just… not used to being so high in the air.""You looked out of the monorail car window, didn't you?""…Yes… Turns out I'm afraid of heights," Daemon places a hand on hers. "But not here. With you, it's as if nothing could ever ruin this moment."Sharra is receptive to the way he looks at her. "Alyssa's Tears is said to have one of the cleanest waters in the Vale. Crystal clear – good for a swim in the hottest summers. The way the waterfall churning them ripples and moves."They look into each other's eyes. Daemon cups her chin."I used to think if you looked too deeply into the waterfall," she continued, "you would lose all sense of reality.""Well, I think the stories don't do the Vale's marvelous beauties justice," Daemon replied.Then, Daemon leans close and claims Sharra's lips in a tender kiss. Although surprised but somewhat expected it, she does not resist and kisses him back, interlocking her fingers with his. Her thoughts and concerns simply melt away; she felt as if butterflies were fluttering in her stomach. Both soon shifted as Daemon put his arms around Sharra's waist as she wrapped her arms around his neck. A shallow hum escaped from within her in response to how Daemon was making her feel; Sharra's heart was beating faster and opening up to him. To the young couple, it's like a cool inhalation of oxygen to warm the soul – an aphrodisiac. Like nothing in the world exists but she and him.For what felt like an eternity, Sharra suddenly felt her senses coming back and quickly pulled away. Flushed and embarrassed for one, yet confusion with the other. The Flower of the Vale panted as heat rushed to her cheeks."No… I-I shouldn't have done that…" Sharra stammered."But… I love you, Sharra. Don't you feel the same for me?" Daemon asked, somewhat hurt."But I don't… I mean… The stress of it all, it-it… You-you mean it, don't you? But how can I be sure you aren't making a mistake? When you kissed me…. I-I… no. I'm so sorry.""Sharra…"Now it was her turn to feel bad. "Please, Daemon, I know we both wanted it – but… I'm sorry. I don't blame you… I-I have to go before somebody sees us," Sharra quickly ran past Daemon and out of her room, leaving him alone to stew in his thoughts.Don't go. Please… come back. "I'm sorry…" Daemon choked.
Hail to the Stag Kings -- Ch. VFandom: Game of ThronesPairing: OC x OCChapter: 5/?FF.net link: HereDescription: 800 years after the War for Westeros came to an end, the Seven Kingdoms have since been unified to become officially known as the Kingdom of Westeros. But despite having entered an industrial age, the Baratheon dynasty is threatened and now faces total collapse. Rebellion! A revolution is in the making! Prince Daemon Baratheon and his older brother King Argilac IV are the last living descendants of King Daveth I the Great. Upon ascending to monarchy, however, Argilac proves to be a tyrannical ruler—whose excessive cruelty, viciousness and despotism have caused unprecedented suffering throughout the nation. Can Daemon stop his brother and help lead the revolution to save the kingdom like his legendary ancestor did before it is too late? Or is House Baratheon doomed to suffer the same fate as its predecessor?Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Game of Thrones characters in the story or from any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Only the OCs included are mine.--------------------------Chapter 5: Assuming the Mantle of Leadership—At the Driftmark—It was a dark, stormy night during the voyage to House Velaryon's ancestral seat of Driftmark. Located in Blackwater Bay west of Dragonstone, Daemon had not set foot on the eponymous island since he was four years old. Samson, now actively out of retirement as Master of War and General leading the rebels' armies, shifted as the Velayron vessel Second Wind cruised past the crashing waves, steadying himself with merely his cane. Jacaerys remained steady and unmoved as Second Wind pressed on; already knowing full well he would be branded a traitor for aiding in his nephew's escape from prison, the Master of Ships dedicated House Velaryon's full support to Daemon's cause as Lord Admiral of the rebels' navy. The rogue Master of Whisperers Jaqoros, however, would maintain connections with his agents for him to operate as the rebels' spymaster.Sailors hollered and shifted around the ship as Driftmark came closer into view.Daemon felt his headaches coming more frequently. "Damn dreams…" he muttered. Every night it is the same dream. Why do they keep happening? But… what does this mean for me specifically? Since the escape, the Prince had not had a proper night's sleep. The several seemingly prophetic-like dreams began during his captivity where it always had a vision of a raven with three eyes calling out to him over and over — warning him of impending danger."All hands on deck! We're in sight of Driftmark," shouted Jacaerys.Through the dense stormy mists, Driftmark became more visible. Named after driftwood brought by the tides, the island was low-lying and fertile with shipyards the Master of Ships himself mentioned earlier and settlements including the towns of Hull and Spicetown. True to his word, there were already 200 ships—longships and war galleys—docked; the castle of Driftmark itself was a grim-looking structure, often damp and flooded with dark, salt-stained walls; the second castle, High Tide, was built from pale stone with slender towers crowned with roofs of beaten silver that shined in the sun. When the waters of Blackwater Bay are at high tide, High Tide and the Driftmark become connected only by a causeway.Once the Second Wind arrived at the port, Daemon was among one of the three to disembark with his trusted canine companion in tow. Accompanied by Samson, Jacaerys, and Jaqoros, the group was greeted by a squadron of Velaryon bannermen."Welcome back, my lord," one of them said.Jacaerys nodded. "It's good to be home on solid ground again, lads. Has the main garrison sent word to my sister?""Yes, my lord. Lady Saenyra has been informed of the situation.""Good. Take us to her at once. We've got a lot to talk about.""Yes, my lord."Aunt Saenyra? Gods, I have not seen her in quite a while. I wonder how she's been doing lately.The Driftmark escorted the team from the docks towards the major road leading to the castle itself. The terrain was moist and slightly muggy with the occasional thunderbolts shooting across the darkened skies; Daemon felt exhausted from having to endure so much in a brief period and still had to be tended to by a maester for the bruises on his body, yet the flashbacks would occur off and on bearing the same warning.« …You're not safe here. You must keep moving… »Daemon shook his head roughly."Are you alright, lad?" Jacaerys inquired."Iksan sȳz (I'm fine), uncle," he deflected. "I just… I haven't had a good night's sleep.""Neither of us has had any proper sleep since everything went to hell in a handbasket. But first, you're going to need Maester Lucerys clean you up before doing anything else.""Uncle—""Ser Jacaerys is right, Prince Daemon," Samson agreed. "No one can be of use to anyone if we physically aren't our best should we ever go to war. And the way we stand at present would undermine our efforts in the long run.""And then there are these… 'dreams' you've been having," Jaqoros mentioned."How do you know about them?" the Prince asked."You mumble louder than you think. A leader should have a stable mind for strategizing and should maintain focus, not be distracted by something as minor as this. If you are to lead Westeros out of this crisis, then you must rid yourself of these thoughts. Your judgment cannot be clouded."Daemon rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, and how am I supposed to do that? I can't control when these dreams occur, nor can I know how to expunge them from my mind," he remarked sarcastically."Perhaps some old historical records may hint at possible clues… provided any are left intact after the Memorial Fire of 1004 AC incident. But until then we're in the dark.""I hate being left in the dark.""No one does." Jaqoros narrowed his eyes. "You still have much on your mind.""I do. Everyone expects so much from me, from my leadership. I just… I hope I'm ready for this. I don't want to end up like Argilac."He's still concerned about the path ahead of him. "You won't have to carry the burden of leading this revolution alone, although it must feel like it. That is why we are here," Samson interjected. "Every noticeable Baratheon sovereign each had their trials to overcome, and they didn't get to where they were without the support of those they trusted. Here is no different, lad. We must start small before we can further expand."Jacaerys overheard. "By choosing to come to Driftmark, you've already taken the first step to remove Argilac from the throne. As the Prince of Dragonstone, you already have the support of the noble houses of the Narrow Sea. And here you have a fleet of your own, albeit it is small, but House Velaryon knows how to use them more than Argilac does his.""But we still need to build more alliances and recruit more followers," Samson noted. "Argilac still controls the largest portion of the Royal Army and the remaining two-thirds of the Royal Fleet. He'd crush us and anyone in his path any time he wants. And with General Gerion Lannister at the helm, there's no telling what lengths he will go to if he wants to keep his power.""Once my sister hears your case, lēnqar (nephew), we can make the first move in securing more aid. Hope your Arryn friend convinces the Valemen.""Sharra will pull through on her end," Daemon said. "I've known her mother Lady Arryn for a long time. The knights of the Vale are nigh unstoppable as cavalry and the Brotherhood of Winged Knights are among the best elite guards in the realm.""Then you'd best convince them. The Vale nobility is a proud, aristocratic bunch." Jacaerys noted the front door leading to the great hall. "We're here."The group approaches as more guardsmen push open the doors to allow the escort inside. Velaryon guards standing before the Driftmark Throne wore light plate armor; a leather tunic with plates of steel attached to some parts with bluish-green cloaks wrapped around their necks. Daemon eyed the seat of his paternal relatives closely to see Lady Saenyra Velaryon sitting on the throne. Being the middle of the three Velaryon siblings, Saenyra assumed her role as Lady of the Tides, Mistress of Driftmark, and head of House Velaryon when her older brother Jaerys abdicated to marry Queen Shiera III Baratheon.A woman around 52 years of age, they considered Saenyra a majestic beauty despite her age, with silver-gold hair falling past her waist, pale lilac eyes, and a smooth yet lined face with a slender figure. She had slight wrinkles around the corner of her mouth and eyes but was still considered a lovely woman. She was a clever, capable, proud, fierce, and fearless leader, though only around members of her own family was she warming and welcoming… to a certain degree. As a young adolescent girl, Saenyra admired Jaerys and often got into sibling rivalry disputes with Jacaerys. By adulthood, Saenyra was already a widow with five children of her own—her sons Daenar (20), Rhaemyx (17), Malaenys (11), and Aemon (8); and her daughter Rhaela (15).Daemon loved his aunt Saenyra. She was there for him throughout most of his childhood and again when his father and mother died, respectively. If he could count on anyone to provide the much needed 'oomph' the rebels needed in naval warfare against Argilac, it would be his aunt, uncle, and cousins. "Sodjisto (Aunt)," he greeted in High Valyrian."Dubāzma! (Cousin!)" greeted his younger cousins.Saenyra, identifying her royal nephew, rose from her seat and made her descent towards the group."My lady Velaryon," greeted Samson and Jaqoros respectfully.The Lady of Driftmark merely ignored the Master of War, Master of Whisperers and Master of Ships, and continued maintaining her concentration solely on Prince Daemon. She eyed him up and down, studying his posture, yet noticed the cuts and bruises on his body and the black circles under his eyes. Saenyra determined that not only had her nephew endured great physical abuse but was suffering from sleep deprivation. It would only be logical that he would seek her out for help.This is no doubt Argilac's doing, Saenyra thought. "Iōragon, ñuha iēnqar. Ōregon nyke. (Arise, my nephew. Embrace me.)" she said.Daemon rose from kneeling and threw himself into his aunt's warm welcoming arms, holding her close. To Saenyra, Daemon was like a son to her; holding onto her nephew tightly, she could only imagine the horrors he had to endure in King's Landing leading up to the disbandment of the Westerosi Parliament. Saenyra had a close sister-like bond with Queen Shiera III and idolized Jaeyrs. She could not care less of Argilac; she hated and despised her eldest nephew, but she was fonder of her other nephew. She had to protect him… for his father and mother's sake."It warms my heart to see you again, nephew, though I wish it were under better circumstances," Saenyra said."I missed you too, aunt Sae," Daemon remarked."Malaenys, jiōragon īlva Giēñatī Lucerys syt aōha lēkia. (Malaenys, get us Maester Lucerys for your cousin)," she said to her thirdborn. Once the child obliged, Saenyra returned her attention to her nephew. "We'll prepare a warm bath and some food soon. In the meantime, we heard some rather… conflicting reports from the capital. Something about a riot.""Argilac sent his men to dissolve parliament for attempting to call for a Great Council. There were deaths involved, including Prime Minister Mallister.""I see. And your lady friend?""She… Sharra's gone back to the Eyrie. My brother had his men beat her, tried stripping her naked in front of the court, but… I lost it. I couldn't sit back and watch anymore."What repulsive behavior. Poor girl. "Meaning you had to physically assault the Kingsguard and Argilac's elites to stop it which resulted in the injuries you now bear from them beating you bloody," Saenyra deduced."Yes.""You always were a shy, timid boy when you were younger. However, I am proud of you for standing up for your friend. What was Argilac hoping to gain from getting away with such an atrocity?""I don't know. But what we do know for certain is that as long as my brother remains in power, the kingdom will never be safe from him. Everything our ancestors fought for will be for naught. That's why he needs to be removed from the throne.""And you've come seeking our help.""That pretty much sums it up, aunt Sae. We cannot stay long, though. As soon as the sun comes up tomorrow morning, we will be departing for Gulltown. From there, we'll go to the Eyrie." I probably shouldn't mention my 'dreams' to her… not yet anyway. I'll need to know more about them first."Well, you may not have our name—but you have our blood. The blood of Old Valyria runs through your veins as it does ours. We will always be a family," Saenyra said. "Besides, your mother and I somehow suspected that it would have eventually come to this."Daemon blinked. "What do you mean?" he asked rather confused."The relations between you and Argilac have always tense, but if the threat of a civil war were to ever occur… well, Shiera asked Jaerys and me to preserve some things for you." She snapped her fingers, prompting four servants to enter the great hall with a bundle of antiques left in storage. "Nearly 120 years ago, your great-great-grandmother Queen Argella the Historian had these artifacts smuggled out of King's Landing during the Memorial Fire before the incident claimed her life along with many others. They believed these could not fall into the wrong hands. No one has ever used it in so many years. For generations, we tried to keep them safe at your parents' behest as the Keepers of Ancient Knowledge.""But what are they?"Saenyra nodded her head. On cue, the servants unraveled the bundles steadily catching the attention of Daemon, Samson, Jacaerys, and Jaqoros. One piece of cloth was pulled back, followed by another, then another until the first antique became visible. The group's eyes steadily widened with surprise as a sheathed longsword was presented to them; the blade's crossguard and rain-guard featured the stag of House Baratheon, the grip and pommel with a lion's head with ruby eyes decorated with Lannister gold. The weapon was approximately eight centuries-old with its past golden color faded away as rust only to be replaced and repaired with garish ornaments with new golden nuggets, cherrywood, and red leather; the blade itself was polished with red and black ripples tracing along the flat end."B-by the Father," Samson gasped. "I-is th-that…?""Stormbringer, the ancestral sword of House Baratheon," Jaqoros observed. "Forged with Valyrian steel, the blade was first wielded by King Daveth the Great himself more than 800 years ago. The Stag Sedition, Second Greyjoy Rebellion, Bolton Uprising, all the way to the Second War for the Dawn and the War for Westeros… Stormbringer has lived through many battles before being set aside once there were no more major wars—left to gather dust above the fire. We thought it was long gone as with the rest of the other artifacts, but to now learn it was removed from the Andalosian Museum of Natural History and Science… For an ancient relic, it's been surprisingly well-preserved. And modified from the looks of it.""My… my ancestor used th-this?" Daemon remarked with awe. The craftmanship, the decorum, the metalwork… What a beauty!"Your mother believed that House Baratheon would one day raise a worthy successor to inherit King Daveth the Great's legacy," Jacaerys mentioned. "We initially thought Argilac would be the one, but when his true nature became apparent… Queen Shiera lost all hope in your brother and shifted her attention towards you. But neither she nor our older brother ever got the chance to train you in the art of combat. Her last words before she died were to ensure that we prepared you for the journey. And for the past four years, we in House Velaryon honored her wishes.""Father… Mother…" Why didn't you tell me?"Did our late Queen leave anything else behind for her youngest son?" inquired Samson."Other than necessities, there was little left to salvage," Saenyra shook her head. "But if the end game of yours is to achieve peace and restore balance, then you must fight for it. You will need to establish a formidable opposition. An army, your own Small Council, a new Kingsguard, all of it. Once you start small, expand from there." She then glanced at her nephew. "My question to you is… will you be able to redeem your house's honor; to repair the damage your brother so savagely inflicted upon this nation? Are you willing to take the reins and carry on the legacy of your forebearers? Are you ready to be your mother's son?" she asked. Remember: you cannot lean on anyone to do things for you forever. There can be no sense of dependency.This was overall an important step for him. Already Daemon made his intention of seizing the throne away from his older brother known to his small group upon fleeing King's Landing, but now the challenge was bound to become much harder with each progression. But his aunt and uncle were right about one thing: he can't afford to have people do the work for him; eventually, he'd have to throw himself in the thick of it as his predecessors had during their time… like his mother did. Gazing upon the ancient Valyrian steel sword Stormbringer, the blade of his long-departed ancestor, Daemon gripped the handle, ready to assume the mantle of leadership necessary to lead the revolution."Kessa, ñuha riña. Iksan ūbrie. (Yes, my lady. I'm ready.)" Daemon replied. I must do this. For peace, for my house… for everyone. I've got to!Both Saenyra and Jacaerys nodded. "Then in the sight of Gods and men, we hereby proclaim you… Daemon of the House Baratheon, the Sixth of His Name, ruler of the Kingdom of Westeros and Protector of the Realm," they hailed. "Send messenger ravens to every corner of the realm from the Arbor to the Wall. The time has come to choose: Argilac… or Daemon."—At the Eyrie—Sharra shifted nervously her way through the crowded halls of the Eyrie, ancestral seat of House Arryn. The political atmosphere of the castle had changed since coming home; since her appointment as one of the Vale's leading parliamentarians frequently took her away from home, it felt… strange. Almost as if her home were foreign in a certain way. The moon-and-falcon banners hung from the walls, along with the paintings of Arryn lords—both old and new. Among them bore a portrayal of House Arryn's founder Artys I the Falcon Knight, the first ruler of the then-sovereign Kingdom of the Mountain and Vale; another featured the Vale's last King and first Warden of the East, Ronnel Arryn, along with his mother and Sharra's namesake Queen Regent Sharra Arryn; another featured the iconic lords Jon Arryn and his son Robin, Sharra's ancestors; and the last ones displayed her mother, her father Lord Jasper of House Hardyng, her grandfather Lord Artys, her grandmother Rowena of House Royce, and her great-grandmother Lady Alyssa.As she trekked farther in, the murmurs grew more audible with a rather sizeable assembly of the Vale nobility gathering in the High Hall's main audience chamber near the Arryn throne made of weirwood, with only the Moon Door continuing to exist in the center. As tensions gripped the land, the nobles gossiped about their concerns as soon as word reached them of the civil war. Many had been waiting days and nights to petition the ruling Lady of the Vale, Wardeness Alayne Arryn. Unfortunately, because of her declining health, their pleas remained unheard of."Did you hear?" a youthful nobleman asked."I did. Such a scandal!" replied an elder noblewoman."Ergo, it will be a civil war after all…""We've always known that King Argilac was cruel, but to disband parliament and accuse our representatives of treason—""Queen Shiera should have summoned a Great Council sooner; perhaps then the problem would have been worked out much faster. Otherwise, we wouldn't indeed be in this mess.""How? Not even a mother's love could prevent her hand. Would you do the same if any of your children behaved rather poorly?""By the Gods, no! No son or daughter of mine would even continue living in my hall! They would have been disowned and cast out as soon as one of them stepped out of line!"Sharra politely pushed her way past some of them. Gods preserve her. The main hall was a bit too crowded these days. But one gossip quickly caught her attention."Wait! Say that again?""You heard me. Both Baratheon brothers have taken up arms against each other. A familiar acquaintance informed me that Prince Daemon was crowned King by his relatives at Driftmark."Sharra momentarily paused. Wait, what? Daemon's called himself what now?"Argilac, Daemon… House Baratheon suffered a decline as soon as Queen Shiera's elder whippersnapper seized control and ran amuck. Doing whatever he pleases. How is one Baratheon going to alter what's already broken?""I've heard this lad was weak-willed. No backbone at all.""So, we've got a madman on one hand and the other, a boy."That last comment made Sharra visibly angry. She still remembers how Daemon protected her from the failed public humiliation attempt by Argilac's men, how much she values a lifelong friendship with him… the way he kissed her in the garden and his declaration of love for her… You are wrong about him, my lords and ladies. I've known Daemon since we were children. Who are you to judge him in that manner? She brushed them off and made her way to her mother's bedroom. Sharra had to check on her. But as she got closer, she overhead the Brotherhood of Winged Knights discussing strategy with the Vale's military officials."Report," requested Ser Rupert Royce, one of the Vale's leading generals."The enemy vanguard is converging on the Riverlands at incredible speed. The bulk of which is commanded by General Gerion Lannister's son and heir, Colonel Loreon. Already they are nearly engulfing nearby settlements, scattering the opposition on the front lines…" said Major Petyr Hardyng, a Winged Brotherhood knight and Sharra's cousin. "Ser Jarrad Royce reports our forces were able to repel them from entering the high road leading to the Mountains of the Moon, but at the same time, our armies themselves cannot break the siege as it would leave the Bloody Gate undefended. If this keeps up, the Riverlands will fall to Argilac's horde. And without the Riverlands fertile farms, our troops will starve.""What of the emissary dispatched to Riverrun?" inquired Ser Jon Waynwood."Nothing yet, ser.""We've yet to hear a response from Lord Bryan Tully," implied Ser Ian Redfort. "We need more help from our neighboring allies.""The North is too far; the Iron Islands are on the opposite side of the country; Dorne has so far not taken sides—" Petyr noticed Sharra. "Oh! Cousin. Forgive us. We didn't realize you were standing there.""My lady," the other knights acknowledged."There's no need to apologize, sers," Sharra dismissed. "I couldn't help but overhear our situation. Ambassador Tycho has yet to return?""We've heard nothing from him in over a week, my lady," Jon said.Rupert chimed in. "Even as we speak, my lady, we've received numerous calls from the Riverlands but we're unable to move our cavalry through the high road as Colonel Loreon has been making an aggressive march. Stoney Sept, the Golden Tooth, Maidenpool… three of the Riverlands' major strongholds have already fallen to the Lannisters.""How many troops does Colonel Loreon possess?" Sharra inquired."Our scouts report roughly around 80,000 men, half of the main host itself," Rupert said. "However, their main unit has not yet begun to march. I think they must be gathering more troops, suppressing any remaining local resistance, or purging the land of its resources to maintain their supply lines before making the necessary preparations for another push." He points to the center of the map. "Here. Look. Those who fled the battle are said to be converging what's left of their armies here at Harrenhal. While they stage the next line of defense, Seagard, Oldstones, Fairmarket, and the Twins have already sent a splinter force to reinforce Riverrun.""Could it be possible that Lord Tully expects the Lannisters to ignore Harrenhal and instead target Riverrun?""As far as we suspect General Gerion and Colonel Loreon, yes. If Riverrun falls—""Then the entire Riverlands will fall," she theorized. "What of Winterfell? Has word been sent to Lord Jon Stark?""He's sent his sons Ser Rodrick and Ser Brandon to lead a northern host down the kingsroad. But it will take time for the Northmen to pass Moat Cailin and cross the Neck," Ian mentioned.Ser Rodrick. Gods are praised he made it out of the capital safely. "And how many do the Winter Wolves themselves command?""45,000 troops, including the legendary Winter Wolves regiment, plus siege weapons. But timing will be crucial. Even with the room needed to effectively enter the battlefield, General Gerion is as tenacious as he is a ruthless, cunning tactician. He must be up to something."Sharra hummed as she surveyed the map. "Hmmm. Do what you can. I'll see if I can send word to an old friend of mine. He may be able to help us.""Does this… 'friend' of yours have ships?" asked Ser Waynwood doubtfully. "The Greyjoys have one of the largest fleets in the kingdom, but they—""So does the Master of Ships, Ser Jacaerys of House Velaryon. He and the Master of Whisperers have both defected from the King's side. They're the reason why I made it out of Argilac's clutches.""And you trust them?""No… but two who fled King's Landing with me, I trust with my life. Professor Samson and Prince Daemon.""How can—""Samson was once a respected General in the Royal Army before he retired. His experience as a veteran could be beneficial for our allies. And Daemon is a close childhood friend of mine who protected me from his brother. Doubt him if you must simply due to his relation to Argilac, but he's never let me down before. Not once."The guardsmen mumbled. "So… what do you suggest, my lady?""Send them an invitation," Sharra suggested. "A small strike team could bypass the main host of the Lannister armies laying siege to the Riverlands undetected before they begin to move.""Very well, my lady. But only if we permit one of our own to observe them to ascertain the truth of their intents. We cannot afford any pretenses lead us astray or spies infiltrating our ranks to plot an assassination."Sharra sighed and massaged her temples. "Fine, if it's any consolation." She then turned serious. "But fair warning: neither Samson nor Daemon are to be harassed or harmed in any way shape or form. And if I hear otherwise, then it's out the Moon Door.""As you command, my lady," they acknowledged.As most of the commanders left, Sharra stopped Petyr for a moment. "Cousin. Wait a moment. I must ask. How fares mother?" she asked.Petyr sighed doubtfully. "Aunt Alayne… isn't doing so well, cousin. I don't think she has much time left. You… may want to say your last goodbyes to her."Sharra felt her heartache terribly. Mother… "I… thank you, Petyr. Let me have a moment with her.""Take as long as you need. I'll be in the high hall."As Petyr left to join the rest of his comrades, Sharra was left alone to her thoughts. Turning to her mother's room, Sharra pushed the door open to see her mother Alyane Arryn in her bed. Judging from her appearance, the Lady of the Eyrie and Wardeness of the East had been covered in beads of sweat. Her breathing was heavy and labored and her eyes were barely open. For quite some time since leaving King's Landing for the Eyrie following the death of her parents during the Great Spring Sickness, Alayne's health began to decline and was grooming her only child to succeed her one day. She hardly heard her daughter entering the room until she was close enough."Mother?" Sharra beckoned.Alyane breathed heavily and slowly turned her head. "Oh… oh, there she is. My beautiful little girl," she smiled weakly, caressing one hand on Sharra's cheek. "I… I almost forgot how grown-up you've… become…""I'm here for you, mother. I came as soon as I heard. Do you… do you need anything? Can I get you some water or something to eat? Are you in any pain? Do you require a maester?""It is…. good of you to care for me… at my lowest. But I'm fine, my dearest daughter. Maester Yorwyck… he's said there's nothing left he… could do. The inevitable could be delayed, but… I've decided that… it wasn't worth it," Even at her weakened state, Alayne could still sense Sharra's distress. "Don't worry about me. I'm just… thinking about… things as of late.""What kind of things?" Sharra asked softly."Your life. Do you… do you remember how you… would always beg me to tell you the story The Falcon and the Canary when you were little?""I do, mother," she nodded."Every day, I'd sit you… on my lap. And whenever I finished, what… what did you always say?""'Teach me how to fly'."Alayne gave a weary chuckle at the memory of her daughter as a child; to her, it felt like a lifetime ago. And now there she was in front of her, a young woman. Sharra had made her proud. A capable politician with the markings of a good ruler, Sharra had already demonstrated her talents at an early age long ago. She would make a fine Lady of the Eyrie… but how her own heart ached with the realization that once Alayne had departed from the world of the living, Sharra would be on her own.Her daughter would be the last Arryn.In a split second, Alayne began coughing rather violently."Mother!" Sharra panicked.Alayne shook her head. Well… it seems my time has come much sooner than expected. "I'm so sorry, my little canary. Don't… *gasp* don't worry about me now. Rather… spread your wings and take flight… fly high to the skies, to the future.""But I want you here with me…""I know you do… I want more time with you too, but… but alas, we all must leave the nest… at some point in our lives." Alyane looked more exhausted with each breath. "I knew as soon as you… as soon as you came into this world, you were meant for… for great things."Sharra had not felt so sad as tears started welling in her eyes. No matter how hard she tried not to show it, her emotions were cracking."There, there. Don't be afraid," her mother tried to comfort her. "Death is… only a natural part of life. Something… we're all destined to do. We're born… we live a little while… and when it's our time, our bodies… return to the earth. I… I did the best I could raising you after your father passed.""You… you did well. You were… you are the best mother a girl could ever ask for," Sharra's voice cracked.Alayne brought her thumb up and gently wiped away Sharra's tears. "Now, now… don't cry, my canary. I'll always… be with you; even if you can't see me," she closed her eyes as her breathing grew increasingly labored. "Do you remember… our words?"Sharra nodded. "'As High as Honor'," she answered."And do you… remember… what those words mean?""To honor is to elevate with recognition such as aspiration, self-challenge, and being one's best self as worthy goals. It requires work to get to where we are. Any isolationist instinct does not represent our better nature, it twists and perverts House Arryn's values. Loyalty and truth. Consciousness, intellect, and calm tranquility. Innocence, faith, purity, and cleanliness. Our better nature arises when an Arryn embodies virtue. Where honor demands, we obey. Honor gives purpose to one's life. By making honor our target, aspiring to reach its heights even if one must fall short, yields worthy contributions. That's what it means to live a good fulfilling life. As high as honor.""*cough! cough!* Good girl." Alayne then shakingly reaches to her desk and grasps her ringlets, her late husband's coronet, and the ancient Falcon Crown of Mountain and Vale before passing them onto her daughter."M-mother?" Sharra choked confused."I can feel it coming… I'm going to see your father again… and your grandparents… But I'm afraid you'll be here alone…" Alayne gasped. "My dearest child… you must take my place… as Lady of the Eyrie, Defender of the Vale… and Wardeness of the East. When I'm gone… you will rule the Vale." She held her daughter close. "But… promise me one last thing…"Sharra sniffled. "Anything!""When I married your father— *cough! cough!* it was arranged… by your grandparents. We didn't know each other… that well, but… we loved each other. If… if you do decide to… to marry one day, please… do it for love. Find happiness in your life…"Sharra nodded as she buried her face in her mother's neck. "I… I will try, mother.""Th-then… that's all I ask… *cough! cough!*" Alayne smiled weakly. "My little girl… has become a woman. I… I love you.""*hic!* I-I love you too, mother…""You've always made me… so very proud…"Sharra held her mother close as her lip trembled and sniffled into her neck. She held onto her mother's hand for so long she hadn't recognized the faint distinctive sounds of her last breath until she felt Alayne's hand loosening its grip before going limp. Once she finally realized the gravity of the situation, Sharra recognized Alayne's eyes were closed and her breathing ceased. When she gently nudged her, there was no response. When she tried again, nothing. Sharra stared in shock as she understood a harsh, terrible truth."Mother? Mother!? MOTHER!" she wailed.As the Flower of the Vale sobbed into her mother's arms, the word quickly spread throughout the Eyrie. Lady Alayne Arryn, aged 42, ruler of the Vale and Wardeness of the East, had passed away due to illness. She was gone. Come sunrise tomorrow, her daughter Sharra Arryn was to assume her role. In doing so, however, she would be the last of her house.The last Arryn left in existence.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
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