Chapter Four - A Throne of Iron
Aegon and Rolly stormed down the street, ignoring the cheering crowd of peasants, towards the Red Keep. Lady Nymeria Sand had opened the gates for the Targaryen host, and the combined Dornish, Stormlander, and Sellsword host had engaged the Gold Cloaks and Lannister men manning the walls in a fierce but brief battle for the gates of the city, though in the end the Lannisters were outnumbered and outmatched. Egg and his companion had broken through, following the path they saw Jon and Nymeria take. There's something she isn't telling me.
Of the peasants they passed, over half more resembled walking skeletons than human beings. The siege had lasted six months before Nymeria had found an opportune time to open the gates, and for all that time the banners of Dorne had been hidden from the view of the Lannisters, so as to make them think Doran still supported them. Three times Mace Tyrell, the Hand of the King, attempted to break the siege, and three times he had been repulsed by the Targaryens. All of the two dozen ravens that Mace had attempted to send into the city to warn them of the Martells had been shot down before getting within a hundred feet of their intended destination.
“Traitors, all of them! Oathbreakers! How dare they turn against their rightful king!” The Queen Consort and Regent - at least since the mysterious death of her uncle Kevan, for which many had blamed her. By this point, however, Cersei had nobody to listen to her rant but herself, Jaime, who was out fighting the war, their two “royal” children, and Ser Balon Swann. He was being kept as a hostage against any attempt to storm the Red Keep by his traitorous Father. The remaining kingsguard were to guard the gates of Maegor's Holdfast. Ser Robert, Ser Meryn, Ser Osmund, and the rest of that lot would spend the rest of their pitiful lives defending the gates of the keep. Their king and queen regnant demanded it.
Lord Manfryd the Alchemist was on his way to the wildfire stores under the keep. The Targaryen boy would have nothing but the fire and blood of his words. Two sets of footsteps rang through the otherwise empty halls of the stone room that King Maegor had build almost two and a half centuries prior. “Why are you here, I ordered all the remaining men to the...”
It was then she noticed the red-haired, red-bearded man wearing battered armor. His face was covered with what looked like the remnants of Greyscale. On his chest was emblazoned a Red Griffin. On his shoulders, the red three-headed dragon of House Targaryen. Beside him, stood Nymeria Sand, the sand snake who had assumed her father's position on the small council. The man spoke up. “I thought the Greyscale would take me. It turns out the Gods have given me another chance. The usurper's line ends tonight.”
A shiver went down Cersei's spine at the cold tone in the man's voice as he drew his bloodied sword from its scabbard, the blade making a slight scraping sound as it came free. Nymeria smiled, pulling a dagger. “Vengence,” she began.
“Justice,” Jon continued.
“Fire and blood,” the Sand Snake finished. The Snake and the Griffin started forward, the Griffin moving towards the Queen Regnant and her son while Nymeria moved towards Myrcella. Myrcella and her brother both fled behind their mother, Myrcella breaking into tears.
“Traitors!” Cersei cried, but not a soul heard her. Not a soul, but that of Ser Balon Swann.
“Get back, your grace.” The knight of the kingsguard stepped forward, drawing his own blade.
The two aggressors briefly halted. “I have no wish to kill you, Ser Balon. But I will do what I must. Blood for Blood.” Jon said.
“As will I,” was the knight's reply. A dance of swords, Jon swinging for the body of the kingsguard knight, Ser Balon dancing out of the way and aiming his own blade for Jon's neck. Jon parried, but Balon kicked him to the ground. But then, as he raised his blade to strike down Jon, Ser Balon felt warmth in his belly. Then a spike of pain. The brief battle between the Griffin and the Swann ended, almost as quickly as it had began. Balon looked down, knowing already what his eyes needed to confirm. A dagger, with a decorated hilt, was buried in his gut, between the plates of his armor. The hand at the hilt was Nymeria's. Swann's eyes met those of Jon's, then those of the Snake. The former's showed regret, the latter's showed a cruel smile. She twisted the hilt, and Swann coughed up a glob of blood onto his beard. Nymeria Sand kicked the defeated knight's limp body to the ground.
“No!” Cersei screamed, charging with the fury of a mother lioness defending her cubs at Nymeria in one last desperate attempt to save her children. It was in vain, and Jon clocked her in the head with his mailed fist, and Nymeria kicked the Queen in the gut, forcing her to vomit on the ground.
“We'll deal with you later.” Cersei did the only thing she could. She cried.
The two turned their attention to the two golden children in the corner. They were huddled next to each other, Myrcella crying into the arms of her brother, who himself had red eyes that bespoke his own acceptance of his fate. He raised his face to meet that of Jon as the Griffin approached. “Do you have the courage to look me in the eyes when you do it?” Jon frowned, raising his blade over his head, preparing to strike. He was promised the boy, Nymeria the girl.
****This isn't right!
Without thinking he drew his blade and sprinted towards Jon from the shadow's. Aegon wanted to believe the two children cowering in the corner deserved what was coming to them, but he couldn't. They were pawns in their mother's and grandfather's game, no more guilty of her crimes than he or his deceased sister were of the Mad King's. Aegon didn't want to start his reign with atrocities like the Usurper had. He had to be better, or his own reign would be doomed to the same failures of the last four kings.
The Targaryen slammed into Jon, who himself fell onto Nymeria, both of the Targaryen supporters emitting gasps as the air was knocked from their lungs. “Egg?” Griff asked, but Aegon didn't respond. Rolly stepped out of the shadows, trying to keep pace with his friend. Both men drew swords. Jon retrieved his own and that of Ser Balon, handing the latter to Nymeria. “I must do this!” Jon shouted. “You don't understand! Blood for blood, your father must be avenged!” Half a second later Jon plunged his sword in the direction of his king.
Blades flashed as Ser Rolly engaged Nymeria and Aegon engaged his former mentor in a duel. Egg ducked, almost being cut in two as Connington swung his blade. Aegon rolled out of the way. “Jon, what in seven hells are you doing?” Aegon asked. “Have you lost your fucking senses?”
“He killed MY Rhaegar!” Jon shouted, trying to bury his blade in the son of his former friend. Egg rolled out of the way, still trying to come to bear with what was happening. His adoptive father, friend, and protector of eighteen years was trying to kill him! “He had NO RIGHT!”
“Nor do you!” Egg rolled into Jon's legs, catching his mentor unawares and knocking him to the ground. Jon wasted no time, pushing his body onto that of Aegon's and grasping his ward's neck. “I must avenge my friend! I must avenge... YOU!” The air started leaving Aegon's body, but none could be gathered. His lungs tried to inhale, but Jon's grip was too strong. Aegon, despite becoming increasingly light headed, continued to struggle with Jon, trying in vain to push Connington off of him. The room turned first purple, then gray, then black.
Jon pushed himself from the ground, and approached Rolly from behind, knocking the knight who was engaged in a duel with Nymeria out cold. Jon turned back to the children. Now, where were we?
But he didn't get a chance. He felt a throb in his head, then he was out.
Ser Rory Valkyn, a knight of the former King Robert's household guard, knocked the Griffin unconscious and to the ground. He had seen enough of the duel to know that the so-called Targaryen was defending innocent children, despite everything their parents had done to his family. As a knight, Rory could respect that. It was not often a knight remembered his vows, much less when it came to defending enemies of said knight against allies. Even he couldn't realistically say he would do that. The Dornish woman had a wounded hand, and it was easy enough to dispatch her, as Rory knocked her out with the hilt of his blade before she could react.
**** Where am I? Is this what the seven hells feel like?
Aegon rubbed his head. He was in a bed, the sheets having the sigil of House Baratheon-Lannister of Tommen and Myrcella. A thin sheen of sweat was on his head. Aegon tried to raise, but fell back onto the bed at an awkward position as pangs of pain hammered against his head.
“Be careful, Maester Pycelle said not to let you out of bed until you could sit up.” The voice was gentle, definitely that of a female. He looked to the left and right. The room walls were made of stone, and a torch was mounted by the open door. Outside, two knights Aegon recognized to be of the Golden Company stood guard. As his vision cleared, it was then he recognized the golden hair of the girl. Beside her, on two chairs by the bed, sat Aegon's squire Lotho Mopatis and the girl's brother. They are...
“I am Myrcella, this is my brother Tommen.” She began, her voice nervous. “Baratheon... err, Lannister... I mean Waters, I guess.” She was looking at the ground, avoiding eye contact, obviously a little nervous, as she was biting her lip. “I just wanted to be here to say... thank you.”
“For what?” Aegon asked. “It was my duty. My sister died like that...” His voice trailed off.
“Regardless, thank you. We owe our lives to you, your grace,” Myrcella said, though her brother, Tommen, was frowning. Your grace?
Lotho spoke up, noticing the confusion on his face. They had become quite accustomed to each others' company, and had learned to read each other. “You were crowned king yesterday by the High Septon. A shame you couldn't actually attend the coronation.”
“How many men did we lose?” Aegon stood at the small council chamber of the Red Keep. At the table were Jon, who despite his treason, was still Hand of the King, Varys, the new Master of Whispers, Rolly, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Harry, the Captain of the Golden Company, and Gorys Edoryen, who had been appointed Master of Coin.
“Just short of four thousand,” was Rolly's reply. The Lord Commander of Aegon's Kingsguard had recovered quicker than him, and was better briefed on their situation than him. “Cersei Lannister and her bastards, as you are well aware, are in our custody, and the forces of the West have stood down. We have faced mild resistance from the Tyrells, but since we have two of Lord Mace's children...”
“Two?” Aegon asked, interrupting Varys.
“Ser Loras, the Knight of Flowers, and Margery Tyrell,” Edoryen spoke up.
“As I was saying...” Varys coughed to both clear his voice and get everybody's unquestionable attention. “Lord Paramount Mace Tyrell has surrendered and is awaiting your judgement.” “Letters have been sent to Lord Paramount Jon Stark, Robin Arryn, and Peytr Baelish to attend you in the capital.” He paused. “We have received replies from all. Jon, Robin, and Baelish should be here to swear oaths of fealty to you, should you desire it. Furthermore, I have taken the liberty of removing the Freys from Riverrun in favor of Lord Edmure Tully, as a show of good faith to the Riverlords to lay down arms. The Freys SHOULD give the lands up without a fight. Walder the Late Lord is nothing if not a coward. Jon's letter demands the heads of all Freys that participated in the wedding game we call the Red Wedding, but I suppose this will have to do, if you want to end the war now. Which I would strongly advise.”
“The Redwyne boys have been released from prison, and after receiving an oath of fealty to you, we have taken the liberty of allowing the Manderly's, Karstarks, and Blackwoods to return home, as well.” Jon stated, his voice cold. We'll have to talk about what transpired, but later
, Aegon thought.
“Also, Prince Doran Martell has arrived in the capital with a further five thousand spears to bolster your ranks. Though unable to attend this meeting due to his physical impairments, he requests both an audience with you, and the right to assume a position on the small council as Master of Laws.” Gorys resumed where Varys left off. “Speaking of petitions, the Iron Bank asks that you assume the debts of Tommen, like you promised you would. I advise you accept, as they are not the kind of people you want to get on the wrong side of... That said, they are offering generous terms, and are willing to give us five years to collect the coin needed.”
Aegon nodded to Gorys, signifying his acceptance of the terms laid by the Braavosi.
“That just leaves the matter of the White Swords to settle,” Rolly spoke up. “I have taken the liberty of removing Sers Robert Strong, Meryn Trant, Borros Blount, Osmund Kettleblack from the Brotherhood. That leaves Loras Tyrell and Ser Balon Swann...”
“Wait, Swann survived the battle in Maegor's Holdfast?” Aegon asked, with a nice surprised look.
“Yes, he was severely injured in the battle, but Maester Pycelle and the Halfmaester expect him to make a full recovery given a few months. Now, Ser Loras killed an alchemist, whom he revealed to be preparing to set off hidden caches of Wildfire under King's Landing. His actions saved ten thousand men and your person, so I pardoned him. I think even you would agree Swann displayed his true colors when he fought to defend Tommen and Myrcella. The other knights that I discharged surrendered the keep without a fight, and even offered to kill the children themselves to 'prove their loyalty.'"
Aegon nodded in agreement with Rolly's decisions. “We're going to need new Kingsguard...” Edoryen spoke up.
“I think I know just the man...” Aegon replied.
Ser Rory Valkyn knelt briefly to Aegon. The Targaryen monarch raised him up. Rory and his brother both served King Robert, Joffrey, and Tommen. Their father had served King Robert personally and died on the Trident, and in reward Robert made their mother the Lady Steward of a small keep near the capital on royal land. Since then, Rory has been in service to the Baratheons, and by consequence the Lannisters as well.
“You showed honor and skill in the keep. Nymeria is on her way back to Dorne, where Prince Doran has arranged a convenient marriage for her to one of his bannermen.” Rolly nodded.
“I have to ask, why are you here? I am a knight, no more. I fuck whores and do my best to bring a little good into the world. I am surely not worthy of you.”
“No, it is I who is not worthy of you. If you would permit it, Ser, I would name you second to my Kingsguard.” The knight was taken aback for a moment.
“Are you sure, your grace?” Surely there are better...”
“Yes, I am sure. I can think of no one better to defend my life and that of my family.” Rory thought about it for a moment, then knelt, and Aegon recited the oaths while Rory repeated them back.
“Rise, then, Ser Rory Valkyn of the Kingsguard. The Red Keep is your home now. Lord Commander Rolly awaits you.
Aegon was on his way back to the Red Keep from the brothel where he had found Rory. To his left was Ser Rory and two company-men, all three on horse-back. The crowd was cheering the return of the Targaryens. The Faith had firmly allied itself with Aegon upon his promise of no more brother-sister unions, and the full support of the crown in the ventures of the Faith. Since then, the poor brothers had been toting Aegon as some sort of saviour. Just a man, or a dragon, perhaps,
All of a sudden, somebody shouted “Your grace, get down,” and pushed Aegon off his horse. The crowd started panicking, and this mystery person pulled him to his feet. His horse was struck by five and ten arrows, and fell on the street, dead. Young Griff turned to this person, dressed in knights armor. On its chest... extrusions, as if for breasts, and a tree under a falling star. The crowd dispersed very quickly.
Soon enough, most people on the same street as Aegon were gone, leaving him and his small party. “I would know the name of the man who saved my life, Ser,” Aegon said, looking at the visor of the mystery knight. “I am no man, your grace, but hopefully you will find use for me. I am Lady Brienne of Tarth,” the knight said, removing her helmet. “And, if you would have me, I would be of your Kingsguard.” (Note: I forgot to take a screenshot of the event. Sorry)
Aegon and Arianne were getting settled into the Royal Chambers. While removing Tommen's things, he found a picture of an old silver-haired man. It was coated in layers upon layers of dust. Below the face of the man, in his hands, was a sword with a dragon-shaped hilt. He held it by said hilt, with the point of the blade touching the ground. Beside him stood a woman, also elderly and possessing similar Valyrian features. Around them stood a dozen children, and what were presumably their parents. All of them were smiling. On the dusty frame, the label: “In Memory of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, My Loving Father.”
Aegon flipped the picture over. Behind it, on the back, the name: Baelon Targaryen. Perhaps it is an omen?
He sat the relic that had miraculously survived the Baratheon reign down on a dresser.
Arianne's belly was swollen, and Maester Pycelle, the old maester who had served every king since Aerys II, had said she was coming close to term, as did the Halfmaester who was replacing him.
A knock on the door. “Your Grace, Captain Strickland is requesting an audience.” “Send him in.” The Captain of the Golden Company entered. Aegon felt a certain joy for Strickland, who though the last of his line, had redeemed himself and his family of their crimes during the Blackfyre Rebellions.
“I am here to congratulate you, your grace,” Strickland said as he walked into the room. He turned to Arianne. “Can I have a moment with your husband?” He asked.
“Certainly,” the Princess and Queen replied as she left the room. “I'll be with the Halfmaester,” she told her husband.
Harry moved over to the bed and plopped his bottom down on it. “I hope you don't mind, Your Grace, an old man like me needs his rest.”
Aegon nodded, looking once more at the painting. He retrieved it from where it was sitting and showed Harry. “Do you think I'll live up to them?”
“Why, of course, now...”
“Because sometimes, in my most personal moments, I have my doubts. I doubt my ability to rule such a vast realm. My ancestors possessed dragons. What do I have? Some silver hair and purple eyes? A sense of justice that ends up allowing my enemies to live to haunt me another day?”
The room was silent. Harry broke it. “No king is perfect, your grace. But you can try to be. That's all anybody can ask of you. Here, I have a gift for you.” Harry called to the halls. “Do you know the history of the Blackfyre Rebellions?” That is an... unusual question.
“Yes,” Aegon replied. “The fat wretch of a king I share my name with gave the sword Blackfyre to his bastard son Daemon, who took that as a sign of his right to rule and rose in rebellion against his trueborn brother, Daeron. He lost, and died, and his sons and grandsons tried to reclaim his supposed birthright four more times before Ser Barristan Selmy sent the last one into the ground.”
“What happened to the sword after the Ninepenny Kings?” Harry looked intently at Aegon, who pondered for a second.
“Is this a trick question? Wasn't it lost during the Battle of Bloodstone when Maelys fell?” “No. I have it. We salvaged it when we saw the battle lost, at the cost of some of our best knights.” Two company-men brought a box in, sat it at Harry's feet, and left. Harry bent down to the box, unbuckled the lid, and pulled it open. He reached into it, and retrieved its contents. The sword in the picture...
Aegon thought. And then it dawned on him. Blackfyre!
“We salvaged it, and now we have salvaged our honor. Many of us plan on joining the Gold Cloaks...” The old man took a moment to look at his armor and sword for a moment. “I have lived my life by the sword, and I will die by it. I am the last of my line, and I would request that your grace give me a seat on your small council and a position to command your armies.”
“What, so you are going to disband the Golden Company?” Aegon smiled warmly.
“Yes. Our purpose is completed. We have put one of our own on the Iron Throne. Somebody more deserving than the failed pretenders we have served for a century.”