Chapter IV - The Mother Returns
The Emperor let out a satisfied laugh as he read the morning's note. With the strength of their dragons, the vassal lords of Haerys Anogaryen had forced the adulterer to abdicate his title to his 3 year old son, Aeryn. In addition, Dragonlord Qoherys of the Lands of the Long Summer had arranged for the lecher to 'retire' to Driftmark, before taking the regency of Haerys' son.
"Well it seems I won't be needing to arrange his death after all" Gaemon mused to himself, before turning his attention to more important matters. His Council Archon, Master Vaeron of Tyria quietly spoke as a larger parchment was handed to the Blackfyre. "The draft letters of demands to Volantis, as requested your Majesty."
To Triarch Belicho ,second of his name, Head Triarch of Volantis, Patriarch of the Elephant Party, Master of Vedys Lands and Freeholder of House Vaelaros.
I, Emperor Gaemon, first of his name, of House Blackfyre, Emperor of Valyria, Highlord of Central Valyria, Lord of Valyria, Tyria and Aquos Dhaen, Dragonlord and Defender of the Old Faith, do hereby list the following demands.
First, the City of Volantis and all of her colonies, dependants, fiefdoms and territories, as De Jure Vassals of the Ancient Valyrian Freehold to which the Empire of Valyria is the recognised successor, shall submit to the Overlordship of our person and all of our successors of the Empire of Valyria.
Second, all Triarchs, Masters, Lords, Barons, Freeholders, members of the Tiger Party, members of the Elephant Party, free men, serfs, Ladies and free women, as De Jure subjects and citizens of the Acient Valyrian Freehold to which the Empire of Valyria is the recognised successor, shall bend the knee and swear fealty before our person and all of our successors of the Empire of Valyria.
Third, Triarch Gorys Qhaedar shall submit payment of 1500 Dragons for forfeiting the pact of non-aggression and familial love between House Qhaedar and House Blackfyre, as agreed upon between our person and Triarch Gorys' brother the late Lord Master Aenar Qhaedar, and sealed by marriage between our person and Lady Vogarra Qhaedar.
We do enforce these demands by right of De Jure Overlordship of Volantis and all of her colonies, dependants, fiefdoms and territories as rightful successor of the Ancient Valyrian Freehold. We do also enforce these demands by right of Dragon Conquest as Dragonlords of Volantis.
Failure to submit to these demands will result in the immediate enforcement of terms by arms and Dragonfire.
Emperor Gaemon, first of his name, of House Blackfyre, Emperor of Valyria, Highlord of Central Valyria, Lord of Valyria, Tyria and Aquos Dhaen, Dragonlord and Defender of the Old Faith
Lord Haerys, first of his name, of House Botagonar, Highlord of the Valyrian Isles, Lord of Gelios and Imperial High Marshal
Master Vaerion Silverdrake of the City of Tyria, Archon of the Empire of Valyria
"I assume I need to sign here..?" Gaemon asked, as two slaves offered him a quill and a glass inkwell respectively. A nod from Vaerion confirmed the Emperor's assumption, as he placed his signature to the parchment. "Since they sent the first insult, pick your most trusted slave to deliver this . I shall compensate you should the Triarchs damage his person... I'll be getting it back off the Qhaedars anyways."
Sharing a chuckle over this with his liege, the Master carefully folded the document before taking a candle and a waxstick and dripping across the fold. "Your signet, your Majesty.." Gaemon rubbed the signet ring on his finger a moment. His dynasty, cadets of Targaryan, shared the three headed dragon, but rouge red shield instead of the Aegon's noir black, with the dragon's colour also reversed.
It was a quiet source of shame to the Blackfyres, to be descended from the legitimised bastard of a minor freeholder Dragonlord. Ever more shameful too, that the family to which they held lineage from had chosen to flee, selling their properties and lands to establish a keep on some insignificant rock off the shore of a barbarian continent.
The Emperor considered where he had gotten to. Already he had brought order back to the shattered peninsula, already he had brought dragons back to the Valyrian motherland, and soon he would bring all of the realm's Daughters to heel. He then deigned to consider his distant kinsman. Aegon the Conqueror they called the Targaryan now if his Whisperer's scouts in Westeros were to be believed... Aegon the Animal Tamer, Aegon the Barbarian King, Aegon the Exile, that should be his true name, his family's legacy.
Pressing the signet to the wax, Gaemon resolved to himself that within his lifetime he would see the black dragon consume the red. Until that day, he had more important matters to deal with.Two weeks later, off the coast of Valyria
Having received no reply over the following days, Gaemon flew on his Dragon Stormwynd over the Smoking Sea. That morning his war council had agreed to a bold plan to deal with Volantis, and their army and fleet. While with the dragons, and the addition of the men of Mandarys and Tolos, the Valyrian army could defeat the 20,000 Volantine men-at-arms on land. But at sea they were vulnerable, the various ports and habours of the Motherland barely beginning to return to their former glory and the Royal Fleet hardly worthy of the name.
In order to counter this threat, the High Marshal would take the main Valyrian force, some 14,000 men, and the Dragonlords Qoherys and Lucerys. They would act as a diversion, to appear as the main invasion force by land. In addition, the army would also act as the anvil, keeping the Volantines occupied within Little Valyria or perhaps the upon Demon Road in the ruined land of Draconys.
For his part in the plan, the Emperor would lead a smaller force of 7 thousand men onto whatever ships they could beg, borrow or steal. Fishermen boats, mercenaries, a rag tag armada that would strike at the very heart of the Old City and the main port. The Emperor himself would command Stormwyrm and fly ahead of the motley fleet, in an attempt to burn the Volantine navy in their ports.
"Well Stormwyrm, it seems we have our work cut out for us... Fly on, faster faster!" Gaemon encouraged his dragon, pushing the young wyrm to its limit, cutting a path through the sky to their target. After a few hours of flight, they reached the coastline. From his vantage point, he could already see many of the Volantine fleet at sea, the white specks of their sails drifting off the horizon towards Valyria. While it was too late to stop the vanguard, Gaemon consoled himself with unleashing Dragonfire on those ships not yet embarked, timber and sail erupting in bright white flame.
Satisfied with the destruction wrought, the Emperor turned his dragon about, avoiding the ballista bolts and catapult rocks flinging towards them from the nearby city walls. Knowing the enemy had managed to get some of its fleet to sea, the Blackfyre made haste to return to his own rag-tag armada and ensure its landing.Three days later, Old Quarter of Volantis
Lord Vaekar of Mantarys brought his mace bludgeoning down upon the head of the Volantine sarjent infront of him, caving his iron helm and sending the poor thing under it crumpling to the floor. All about the old man, his army fought sword, tooth, nail and foot for the Black Gate.
"Imagine the surprise on the Emperor's face when he sees our banners here!" Lord Horonno, master of Tolos, quipped after thrusting his arming sword into the under-armoured armpit of another soldier. "All the more surprised when he sees you of all people on the field!"
Taking the time to catch his breath as the battle raged around them, Vaekar spat on the ground before answering the implied insult. "Do not think to judge me young man. You also saw what dragonfire could do and hid in your own tower in shame.. I intend to reclaim my family's glory here in person."
"Young man? Hah! I've lived through eleven winters, 44 years or so by the count of the Priests" Horonno retorted, pausing himself to spy out the field. The combined forces of North Valyria, under orders of Archon Doniphos, had managed to force a landing into the Old Quarter of Volantis itself. Against the orders of the war council, Doniphos of Elyria had sent his vassals ahead, 8000 men strong, while taking command of 6000 to march down the Demon Road and draw out the main Volantine force. So far, the plan was working, as the defenders some 2000 strong fell by the score to the swords and spears of Valyria.
"I wouldn't think you'll find much glory here, Vaekar. We surprised them, these bastards didn't stand a chance. Suits that you should have chosen an easy fight to put on your armour. You were already known as a craven long before that Blackfyre came knocking."
A snort came in way of answer as the flag of North Valyria, Or two-ended Dragon on field of Purple, was raised above the main gatehouse. Looking over the battlements back to the sea, the two lords spied out sails on the horizon. And an ever growing black dot floating above them.City of Volantis, a few hours later
Gaemon watched from above as his fleet began the landing of the main city. Scores of soldiers leapt off of the vessels that had come as close to the shore as they could, some even deliberately run aground, while others rowed on little boats from the larger ships. Having used his dragon's claws and breath to beat off the defender's attempts at countering this, the Emperor decided to land and conduct the siege in person.
"General! I want those boats dragged ashore and away from those blasted walls. Get my men off of this shore, I want this city surrounded by earthworks before nightfall!" Gaemon demanded, heading over to where one of his commanders, the Imperial Justicar Gorys, had landed. "Aye your majesty, but if I may.... See there?"
Confused, Gaemon followed the pointing finger of his Imperial General. In the distance, where the Old Quarter was located, he could see the flag of North Valyria flying. "That's impossible, how did that happen? Those men should be on the Demon Road, holding the main Volantine army!"
Gorys merely shrugged. "Perhaps they were not engaged at the pass? Or perhaps this is a ploy of some kind? These people are known for their tricks. Either way we won't know till we break through to the Old Quarter, your majesty, and see with our own eyes."
"Very well" Gaemon sighed, walking alongside his commander as the siege of the city began in earnest.2 weeks later
Lord Doniphos bowed low to his Emperor in the war tent. He was still in his armour and clothes from the night before, having marched through the night to reinforce the Valyrian army. "You majesty, I have arrived with the rest of my men. Please, forgive me for attending in person but... It was quite rude of you to deny me my honour on the field."
"I gave you a direct order, Archon. You were to remain in the North to ensure my rule, and you were supposed to send your entire
force down the Demon Road.. The Volantines have 14000 men now wandering around anywhere and we have no force out there to shadow them. Tell me you at least have scouts looking for them?!?"
Swallowing, the Elyrian replied with a careful tone. "I do, your majesty.... It is precisely because I have my scouts out that I took the decision to break your orders. Before I set out, the envoy we'd sent to Triarch Belicho returned. Apparently he'd managed to escape from whatever new master he'd been sold off to, but he came with important information. Volantis is at war with Lys, and the slave found their army to the west, not east."
Gaemon clicked his jaw in frustration. While his friend had indeed broken his orders, he needed to know more. "Go on.." Now more free to speak, Doniphos continued. "Knowing their army was on the other side of the Black Wall, I decided to split the troops. I took the core of the army down the pass, as you asked, and met no resistance, as I expected. As for the armies of Tolos and Mantarys, I procured some more boats and ships for them. Turns out from my spies that the Old Quarter itself is quite lightly defended, the nobles within it relying more on the Blackwall's reputation as a high and mighty fortification to keep the rabble out. As you can now see, that reputation has been proven grossly exaggerated."
"Very well.. But I admonish you for not keeping me informed of the change of circumstances. Consider yourself lucky that your plan paid off, otherwise you'd be feed for Stormwyrm.... Now your troops have arrived however, we will be ready for the final assault.Tonight." Another bow from Doniphos followed, before the other lords and generals entered the tent, pouring over a map displayed on a table to make ready for the last push.Midnight
Gaemon roared as Stormwyrm threw another Volantine archer off of the city walls with its claws, engulfing the unfortunate soul in flames before snatching the burned corpse in its maw. The assault for the city was continuing in earnest, troops from the Old Quarter pushing out from the Black Wall while Gaemon's force attacked from the southwest. Several parts of the city battlements had already fallen, and street to street fighting was beginning to take place. Still some pockets of resistance remained, especially around the heavily fortified western gate, of which Gaemon's focus now lay.
Bitter combat raged underneath as the High Valyrian encouraged Stormwyrm every further, blasting apart towers in white flame, or plucking troops off the walls with claws and leaving them to fall heavily on the ground below. Soon, the First Daughter would be forced to submit.
Suddenly, Gaemon noticed disturbing sounds in the air. Horn calls, deep and throaty with a distinct squeal, almost like an Elephant's trunk. Pulling Stormwyrm away from the walls, he pulled to turn it toward the origin of the noise. Torches glinted in the horizon as a great host of men marched towards the beseiged city. Belicho had arrived, and was making no hesitation to try to relieve it.
The Emperor flew up high, out of reach of any arrows, to gauge the Volantine army's strength. Three great lines of men, the dark of the night making it difficult to see what numbers and what mix of troops. Cavalry formed a fourth line at the front, more visible and clearly ready for a charge to the Valyrian rear, where many troops were still waiting to climb the siege towers and ladders.
Gaemon knew he had to act fast. Diving down, he commanded his dragon to bring death and destruction to the enemy centre, ignoring the hail of missiles whizzing around as Stormwyrm breathed fire over the enemy. For a few moments, the Valyrian had the better of the force, men wavering in the sight of a great beast in the pitch black, but in his haste Gaemon made a fatal error in allowing his dragon to land. Arrows now could find purchase, digging into the dragon's scales and flesh, while rending small tears and holes in its wings. Crying out in pain, Stormwyrm bit out at its assailers, tooth and flame fighting back before it could take the punishment no more and lifted into the sky.
Knowing to risk such action again would be foolish, Gaemon brought his dragon away from the advancing army, cursing his foolishness. Landing heavily in the midst of the Empire's forces, Stormwyrm growled out in pain while it's master dismounted. "Go, fly back to home and rest while you can" the Blackfyre commanded his dragon, watching as the beast limply took off again.
Marshalling the Imperial force, Gaemon quickly had what troops on the walls his orders could reach turn about, and use the fortifications against the enemy. Those not yet within the city formed up in ranks, hurriedly setting up for an incoming cavalry charge.
Mounted now on a horse, the Emperor moved up and down the thin line, rallying what units he could as the enemy horses and elephants crashed in. Fighting in desperation in what should have been their moment of glory, the Valyrians stood firm in the face of the initial assault. Soon, however, the main line of the army made contact, sarjents and archers bringing death. In the face of an army almost 19000 strong, the few outside the walls could not stand. Retreating into the city, Gaemon pushed his survivors through the streets. With the walls stopping any further Volantine advance, the Emperor knew his success lay in linking up with Doniphos' forces. It was, in effect, an advance and a fighting retreat at the same time, and in the end just a little over 2000 men of the original landing force broke through to the North Valyrian army.
Despite the desperation of earlier, Gaemon found that things had fared much better for the main force. With the success of taking the Black Wall earlier in the seige, Doniphos' men had encircled the various keeps and fortified estates within the Old Quarter. Blooded, bruised and exhausted, the Emperor was greeted with the sight of almost the entire Vaelaros family in chains, having been forced out of the familial palace at swordpoint.
"Quick, bring his sons to the wall. I want Belicho to see them when he arrives!"Dawn
Saddled and headed towards his foe, Belicho rubbed at his heavy eyes as the sun rose over the city. The smell of battle hang heavy in the air that morning, the harsh sting of burning wood and the nauseating stench of drying blood and spilled innards. This wasn't the first battle the Essosi Valyrian had faced, he had long been accustomed to death on the field. But this time was different, it was personal. Some upstart descendant of a bastard had come to his city, under his tenure as chief Triarch, and that bastard would pay.
"Your Grace, the enemy flies the flag of parlay on the Black Wall" a junior master informed the old noble, riding along side. Belicho knew this could be either the best of news or the worst. It was unknown whether the force on the western wall was the main body of the Valyrian army, but he knew that whatever was left was within the Old Quarter. If they had been beaten and broken, even with control of the wall, they would be unable to break the fortified mansions of the old blooded nobility. But if they weren't, if the western attack was a diversion...
The Triarch's thoughts came to a halt as he rode his horse towards the bridge that separated the Old Quarter from the rest of the city. Above, he could see the while standard of parlay, and before him were a small detachment of horsemen. With frustration, the old noble noted two dragons circling above, their riders watching the proceedings. These were different from the beast his men had wounded the night before, most likely the mounts of the other new Dragonlords.
"Triarch Belicho, second of his name, we advise you to come no further across the bridge!" one of the horse mounted Valyrians cried out. "And who are you, that I should bow to your orders?" Belicho replied, continuing on.
"Because, Triarch, I am Archon Doniphos Ilvar. I am here to take your terms of your surrender, and I have your sons!"