Chapter IX: Friends and Foes
Theomore was depressed. He was consumed by his feelings the day his father left for the Great Reave taking Alyn with him and leaving him behind. Gromm didn't even bother telling his heir that he was to be left at Lonely Light. Dale Greyjoy did, his older cousin and tutor.
"-...That doesn't mean that your father thinks you are unworthy you stupid fuck! Your father knows what he is doing. Someone has to stay here and rule. He is preparing you to take his place, and being a king means that you have to rule also. If being a king meant to reave, fight and rape every man on the Iron Isles would call himself king by now."
"-I am to be left here and Alyn is going to earn all the glory... This is not fair."
"-And what if Alyn dies? What if both of you get killed during the journey?"
"-This is not going to happen!"
"-Ha ha ha, you see? That's why you are to stay here. Every damn man may die. This is not a hunting trip cousin."
"-Now, enough of this. Your 16th nameday is tomorrow, and as your tutor I have decided that it is time for you to start drinking wine. Lets drink tonight cousin, for tonight may be the last night we have drunk together.
"-I've been drinking wine-"
"-Let me interrupt you. No cousin, you haven't the way we are going to tonight."Dawn found the two cousins being the last customers in one of Lonely Harbour's taverns. Drinking and chatting.
"...And your father was like: Dale! get out of that woman and gather the men. We are setting sail! And don't even think about bringing this woman on the longboat. We didn't came here to bring back more mouths to feed!
Ah, she was the finest maid I've ever been with you know. No other woman highborn or lowborn matched her eyes."
"-So? you didn't took her as a salt wife?"
"-Of course not! He would have tossed us to the frozen sea if I did. Me for sobering up and her to die."
"-Indeed. But your father was damn right about that. These are no times for such luxuries we have our own people to look after."
"-Dale, can I ask you something?"
"-Speak your mind kid."
"-Do you like my father?"
"-Are you kidding me? Your father's the finest man on the Iron Isles. I respect the old bastard more than I did my own! Long live Iron King Gromm everyone! Whoah, it seems there is no one left here to cheer, we are the last customers Theomore. C'mon lets go get some sleep."
"-Wait a bit. You respect him, I can see that. But do you like him? I mean if it wasn't for him you would be probably king now."
"-If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be the Captain of the Iron fleet too boy. As I said, your father is a great man. More suitable for this position than me. If we were on King's Landing, I would be the better king. I would drink and whore myself to death, like Robert Baratheon. But we are on the Iron Isles, and things here are different. I claimed the driftwood crown. I had to, i'm a Greyjoy. But I'm glad that I serve under your father's banner. I will 'till his last day, and when that day comes I will be the first man to stand as your champion for the crown. Can't wait for the day I'll be bragging about being the first man handing the King a sword. And the first man to get the King drunk it seems. Lets go home."
After Dale and Gromm's depart for the Great Reave Theomore spent his days practicing. Practicing with the sword, the axe, the bow and the art of sailing. He was a promising fighter who by the age of 17 was the best fighter on the Iron Isles. But spending most of his days practicing hard could not help him forget what he thought that his father done to him. In his mind, his father and king thought that young Theomore was unworthy of reaving alongside with him.
The years passed and King Gromm was dead. The kingsmoot after Gromm's death was a quick one; Dale did as promised years ago, and Theomore's father had done most of the work for his son. Three out of the four Lord Reavers of the Iron Isles were bound with marriage ties to Theomore Bloodshore; The Goodbrothers, Theomore's mother's family, The Greyjoys, whose head of he family Dale Greyjoy's mother was also a Goodbrother, and the Volmarks who were now rulers of Ten Towers. The fact that every ancient house of the Iron Isles were supporting Theomore de facto was only making him sadder, because he thought that his father had done all these strategic marriages in order to secure the throne for his heir, a deed that he was unworthy of doing. Not that many men on the Isles were eager to carry that role now, for Gromm's last act was to ensure the Night's Watch that the Ironborn were to join their War for Dawn. Only one man dared to put himself forward for the kingship, and that was Thormor Ironmaker a veteran reaver of no holdings but a dread warrior.
Thormor suggested that the ironborn shouldn't join the war and instead invade the greenlands for the lords of the Iron Throne seemed more weak than ever. The Lords called him a coward, and replied that when the world's gonna end, all the castles and wealth of Westeros would not save the Iron Isles from the Others. The veteran caused everyone's laughter when he managed to gain only 3 votes from the whole kingdom.
Now the young ironborn King is sitting on the deck of the Howl
, sailing to Shadow Tower. Full of doubts about himself being the King capable of leading the Ironborn army against the ancient threat that has risen from the frozen hells, and scared. Scared to death. A boy still, who has never killed a man before, never lead men to battle has been chosen -or predestined- to lead in a war where everything's at stake. Though the men and the captains seem to have faith on him, and mostly his cousin Dale.
The plan's to garrison the Iroborn army at Shadow Tower and then ride to Castle Black where a war council with the men of the Night's Watch and the greenlandern lords will be held. Theomore's info said that only a few greenlanders had answered Jon Snow's call to arms, and on top of this, Jon Snow himself went missing beyond the wall. The campaign hadn't even started yet and things were already bad. The last letter from Castle Black was signed by Tyrion Lannister, who seemed have replaced the old Lord Commander.
Theomore didn't waste any time upon arriving at the Shadow Tower. He immediately asked for a few horses, rounded up a few men, took his Cousin Dale and began his trip for Castle Black. He thought that during the trip the other lord reavers would notice his state and that was something he wanted to avoid. Dale was the man he trusted most, and was a veteran who counseled his father. He even stopped drinking the day the fleet left the port of Pyke, a fact that made him even better for what Thomore wanted him to do.
"-Seems that the end of the world isn't a good time to get drunk."
"-Maybe its the best time. But I wont be giving the greenlanders the joy of thinking that I gave up hope and started drinking myself to death."
Theomores party took a road which was distant to the wall at first and they were not chatting a lot, but as they were closing to Castle Black the enormous Wall was closer and closer.
Theomore was examining the Wall, like he did the last few hours.
"-It seems that it makes you comfortable young cousin, the first days you hardly even said a word, but now speak every hour or two." Dale was trying to start a chat every now and then, he had stated to his cousin many times that riding made him bored "Going from one place to another with horses is boring; and silent people just make it worse for me
"-I haven't seen anything bigger than this in my whole life. And I believed that Pyke and Ten Towers are big."
"-Big or not, it is not gonna stop the Others by itself."
"-It would help if more of the stupid greenlanders realized what is going on here and rallied."
The party had reached Castle Black and its gate was ten minutes away them, but when Dale heard Theomore's response asked him to stop for a bit
"-Listen to me cousin. These people inside the castle are not our allies. Maybe they are for now, but this is only temporary. We've been raiding their lands for decades now, we've killed their men, took their women, and plundered their lands. The best scenario's to come back victorious and alive, with them more hurt than us so we can reave on their lands again. Don't forget that."
"-I never had that delusion Dale. I didn't came to this place to make friends."
The Imp welcomed the men right after they passed the gate of Castle Black and immediately escorted them to Lord Commander's office. Theomore did not see any Lords banner and asked Tyrion:
"-Who else is joining us?"
"-Along with you father, there were a couple other lords from the Iron Throne who replied to our call-"
"-My father was not a lord, he was a king."
"-Indeed. Excuse me if I offended you my young friend. I already know that, I was the one who wrote the first letter, and it was a pain in the ass to write his full title, Iron King Gromm of the house Bloodshore, King of Salt and Rock, Son of the blah blah and some more then. You people seem to be more talkative than they say, or it is just for the titles? Anyway, I have bad news and good news. I told you the first bad one, that the Lords of the Iron Throne and the Queen are busy fighting they petty wars than saving the world from the dead. The good news is that Lord Commander Jon Snow is back from missing. Its like a routine to him it seems! He goes missing beyond the wall and then somehow he comes back again informing his brothers that the bad guys are far more than we ever imagined. And that was the other bad news."
"-Ask him yourself, we were awaiting for your arrival to start the war council, everyone's in his office and that's the door. I won't be joining you, I attend to other matters here at Castle Black, war is not my game you know."If it was, I wouldn't be here now
. Said the Dwarf mumbling, possibly referring to the reason he was banished to the wall.
"Daemon is helping Lord Commander with that stuff. But let me announce you to them first, lets see if they'll shiver upon hearing that the son of the sea wind is here!
Iron King Gromm of the house Bloodshore, First of his name, King of Salt and Rock, Son of the Sea Wind, Lord Reaver of Lonely Light and Protector of the Iron Islands. And Dale Greyjoy, Lord Reaver of Pyke and Captain of the Iron Fleet. The man who would be king."
In any other circumstance both the cousins would be insulted, but the Imp was in such a cheerful mood that he just made them smile, and they couldn't recall the last time they smiled from the beginning of all these.
Four men were inside the room. The two of them were clearly brothers of the Night's Watch, whit the man sitting on the head of the table being Jon Snow, now at his fifties, with a face that showed that time had taken it's toll on him. The other man was a dornish at his early thirties, who had to be Daemon "the Rush" Martell.
Theomore recognized the old lord sitting at the right side of Jon Snow by his sigil, the golden rose of the Tyrells, but he could't tell who the other lord was.
"-You don't expect me to sit on the same table with pirates and thieves!" the older man shouted at Jon Snow.
"-By the two of us, the one closer to a pirate may be in your eyes my cousin, Sir Willas. You confuse me, because if Dale is a pirate then that makes me a thieve. Somehow being a cripple old man affects your hearing too, but if you didn't hear the dwarf I'll state it again: I am a King Sir Willas. And you shall address to me as one."
"-Please my Lords, and King. we are supposed to be allies here. We can't fight the common enemy of we are divided, that has caused us enough troubles for the time."
"-Allies with the men who burned, raped and pillaged our lands?"
"-King Theomore has brought here everything the Iron Isles have to offer on this war, and that's enough for me."
"-Everything?" The Tyrell said with shining glimpse.
"-Almost. But it seem to me that it is more than you both could bring here. I did not notice a single banner other than the Night's Watch on my way here."
"-The Reach and Stormland's forces are marching towards the Wall by now. They are going to be here in a day or two. Ships travel faster than feet you see."
The Lord Commander tried pacify the men on the table, but he didn't seem to have much patience with the whole scene.
"-Enough of that. Lets have a new start and be quiet as I will inform you of the situation and propose our plan. My lords, you heard who those men are. King Theomore, those are our allies in this campaign, Lord Willas Tyrell of the Reach and Lord Lewys Buckler of the Stormlands.
Lord Commander asked Daemon to bring him a large map and unfolded it on the table. He took a few soldier figures and placed them on the map, informing his fragile alliance of the current situation.
"-Reports state that the Westerlands are in a war with the Throne, and the North and Riverlands army is marching south to rescue Brandon's Stark son who is held captive. My brother has sent me supplies and a hundred Karstark men to help us, but that's not even nearly enough. The Vale and the Dorne haven't replied. So, after the Stormlands and Reach army is here, we'll give 'em a day's rest and we will start. We believe that the Others are about 15-20 thousands, but not in a single group. Their main force is heading towards the Wall, but they have parties lurking throughout the whole region outside the Wall. The plan goes like this: King Theomore will split his 15 thousand forces in two, one will stay here and man the wall and the other part is going to attack the shores from the west. Their goal is to pull out as many of the main force towards them and the rest of us are going to march north. We will hit and retreat in order to pull them to the Wall. That's were we will fight them."
"-You want me to attack the west shores beyond the wall. What's there to attack?"
"-I want you to draw their attention. You'll find small groups of them if you walk inside the forests but our goal is to disunite their main force. Light up great fires in the woods, they'll see that and come for you. After they come to you you retreat back to your ships and then do it somewhere else. Your men are not knights with heavy armor, they are mobile, a great asset when fighting in the snow."
"-Sounds easy till here, but I bet it's not. How are we going to kill them?"
"-I wont lie to you. We are going to lose many men on this war. Three things kill them as far as we know. Valyrian steel, fire and dragonglass. We have found many dragonglass blades hidden outside the Wall, but they are not enough to arm our full force. I'll give you four or five hundreds, but the rest has to be done by you and your men, become creative my king.
The next two hours passed with the five men discussing tactical matters, and by nightfall Dale was exhausted. His steps led him to the castle's hall where he found the Imp sitting alone and drinking wine. The two men shared the wine and talked for some time.
"-...We have many things in common, my Ironborn friend."
"-Indeed. But thank god I haven't given up on women."
"-Who said that I have?"
"-The Night's Watch isn't that strict with that part of the vow right?"
"-Some do follow it, others don't. They took away many things from me you know, at least I kept wine and women. And my son, who my kin had been kind enough to banish him too on this forsaken place."
"-Tough stuff. And it doesn't seem to be getting better right?"
"-Its going to end soon my friend." said smiling.
"-You're so sure that you'll die against the Others?"
"-No, my place is not on the battlefield. My physical features do not allow it as you can see. I've been on the battlefield once. I didn't enjoy it."
"-But your place isn't the wall too."
"-Exactly. And as I said everything's going to end pretty soon."
"-Not much of an optimist."
"-Realist. But I am not referring to your holy campaign against the darkness. You might have a chance on that. I talk about my personal end."
"-You can't leave this place; are you going to kill yourself? What are you talking about? Enough drinking for tonight I guess."
"-You seek only reprieve my friend. I, on the other, welcome the darkness. Its a darkness that has been cast on my life since day one. And I've made my mind, after you guys start your war, I am going to drink myself to death."
Dale looked the man with wonder.
"-You look to me pretty damn sure. I don't know what to say in such occasions."
"-I'll wish you luck and you do the same for me. I am going to find out if heaven really exists."
The next day Theomore and Dale took off for the Shadow Tower. While passing the gate they saw the army of the reach who had just arrived at Castle Black.
Upon arrival at Shadow Tower Theomore did as they agreed on the war council. He divided his army in two and set sail for the frozen shores. Just before he gave the order to start, he thought to himself:
"Well, the priests say that what is dead may never die. Lets find out."