The head of the long, long column of the king’s army crests a hill on the Boneway, and there before it, quite suddenly, is the old, strong castle of the Yronwoods little more than a mile away. And about it, signs of flight: the Dornish besiegers running away, abandonened siege equipment put to the torch, their siege a failure. Hundreds of bodies strewn at the foot of the castle’s thick, high walls are proof of a last-ditch attempt to storm the castle before the king’s host arrived. From those red-brown walls, a few small Yronwood banners run—Lady Yronwood holds it in the king’s name, after all—but above that, flying grandly, are the black pennons blazoned with the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen.
Blayne rides at a gentle canter, not too far away from the king. His eyes wash over the scene that lies before the host, offering a deep sigh and a shake of the head in response. He offers no words for the time being, instead allowing his features to furrow into a deep frown of thoughtful concentration in the direction of the Yronwood fortress. It is quite clear that something is troubling him, as the fingertips of his right hand gently caress the tip of his weapons pommel. His dark eyes remain locked upon the castle then, apparently lost in grave contemplation.
“At last,” Daeron says, grinning at the sight of Yronwood and the fleeing Dornish rebels. “Five thousand of them, the outriders say, all turning tail and running.” The crown of his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror on his fair-haired head, Valyrian steel band set with great rubies, flashes in the sun as he points to the trailing element of the fleeing Dornishmen. “Carts with their supplies, if I don’t miss my guess.” He’s in a ebullient mood, his Kingsguard about him, his knights and captains as well. Word starts racing back through the army, carrying the news, and there’s cheers growing, as the long march to save Yronwood has succeeded.
As the king surveys the scene, Ser Albyn’s remarks are given a moment consideration by the young conqueror. “Of course, ser,” he says. “Though out numbered as they are, I do not think it a surprise that they withdraw. I’m more concerned of the trouble they’ll make for our foragers, and the pressure they’ll put on our pickets in the night.” He gives the reachlord a brief look, and then a flash of a smile. “Still ... We’ll have some of the horse screen the column as we approach the castle. And have Ser Dalton and the archers on the flank, a second line of defense.”
Blayne sighs just a little as he surveys the last elements of the retreating Dornishmen, eyes slipping in the direction of the king as he speaks, though the knight does not move his head. Unlike ser Albyn, he maintains that expression of both concern and doubt. “I am more concerned, Your Grace, about the potential consequences of these soldiers joining up with their brethren and falling back into defensive positions.” At this point, he would turn to the king, his eyes partially lidded and the faintest connection forming between his eyebrows in what could only be a frown, though it makes the knight look more confused than anything else. “We could have crushed them here, though no doubt we would have suffered losses… But what about when their full force is assembled and heavily entrenched.” He would turn his eyes back to the fortress then, as well as the carnage around it’s walls. “I have an ill feeling about this, Your Grace.”
Albyn notes the king’s distinct aura of satisfaction, presumably over the Yronwood victory. Ser Albyn clears his throat, smiles, and says, “Your Grace, I would never seek to dampen your celebrations, and I thank you for humoring my unfounded fears. Hopefully they remain unfounded,” says Ser Albyn, as he loosens his plain sword in its unadorned scabbard, and turns his gaze to Ser Blayne. “However, I can’t help but agree with Ser Blayne.”
The king’s steward, Ser William, polished armor covered by a smoke-grey surcoat displaying the candles of his house, remarks, “It would be a fool’s dream to hope the Dornish would make a last stand here. The king has taught them many times that they cannot stand against us.” There’s a sound of agreement from the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Reynard. He sounds dour, however, as he says, “They’ll return to their old ways, as they did when we marched—raids by day and night, ambushes of our foragers, and running from battle unless forced to it. The deserts give them a great deal of room to run in.”
“Of course they will,” Daeron replies, still smiling, unpertubed. “But now there’s nothing but Godsgrace to keep us from Sunspear, once Ser Alyn takes back the Planky Town. We have the Boneway, we have Yronwood—Dorne’s ripe to fall back into my hands.”
Faint on the wind, answering cheers can be heard from the south: the garrison of Yronwood on the walls, waving their arms and hallooing, and calling ribald curses after the fleeing Dornish.
Blayne nods almost imperceptibly at the remarks made by the kings higher officers, though he does cast his gaze over each of them very briefly. “I would have not expected them to make their stand here, ser. Still, I would have preferred if we could have bled them here a little more before they bolted.” He would do his best to bury the troubled expression borne on his features as the king spoke, wiping it away in favour of a shallow and somewhat transparent smile, just long enough to address the king. “By the grace of the Seven, you may well be right Your Grace.” He would flash a pointed, troubled look in the direction of Ser Albyn that would last only a moment, bfore he raised a hand in acknowledgement of the cheers coming from the garrison of the Yronwood fort.
There are signs of activity now on the walls of Yronwood, men in Dragon livery coming to line the battlements and cheer. But something…changes of a sudden. The cheers turn nasty, and the men are turning toward Daeron and his mighty army—not southward.
Then there is a flash of gold along the line of men. Someone comes, slender and not so tall as those in red and black. A woman? In gold robes, bearing something in her arms. As she passes, each man throws off his red and black livery, each surcoat fluttering down the walls like so many birds to land abandoned on the rocks below.
At last she comes to the place where the Dragon banner flies, and she gives her burden to the man who walks with her. With slow ceremony, she lowers the Dragon banner, removes it from its fastenings, and affixes the one she bore here. She steps back so that the man takes the lanyard and she gives the Dragon to two of the warriors, who hold it between them. As the man runs the red sun and golden spear of House Martell up to the top of the mast to fly in brilliant defiance, Caitrin Blackmont rends the dragon in twain with a gleaming silver blade, then watches as the rent banner is tossed over the wall to land in the King’s own path.
Then the cry goes up: “DORNE! DORNE! DORRRRRRNE!!”
Albyn casts his eyes downward, appearing to muster the courage to speak. “Your Grace, the Dornish are counting on that assumption. They have had ample time to prepare for your coming, with the outriders they sent out, and the release of Caitrin Blackmont who no doubt made her way past here. For all we know, those men jeering at the Dornish backsides are Dornish themselves, flying House Targaryen’s colors in a welcoming ruse to cut you down. I fear I present myself as paranoid, Your Grace, but I’m unsettled.”
Albyn acknowledges Ser Blayne before hearing the cries of Dorne and wrenching his gaze fearfully in the direction of Yronwood before uttering, “By the gods…”
The business of putting together a screening force of horsemen was barely begun—a messenger sent to find Ser Ardon Tyrell, the moving forward of just a small element of that—much less the preparation of the second line of archers under Ser Dalton as the king’s army drew closer and closer, winding its way towards Yronwood. And then: disaster.
For not only has Yronwood turned against the king’s force, but the “fleeing” Dornish army suddenly splits, and a force of Dornish knights night two thousand strong suddenly hurtles towards the head of the marching column. The Young Dragon’s color is high as he takes this in, as men start to shout their alarm, and confusion begins to grip the men marching behind.
“Sound the alarm,” says the king aloud, half-shouting. He turns a glance to Ser Blayne and Ser Albyn, and his expression is an edged, sardonic smile without any mirth to it. “Well, sers, you were more right than you knew. Never trust a Dornishman when his back is to you, eh?” And then he’s reining his horse to turn, sweeping the immediate horsemen and companions about him with a gaze. “You and you!” he says, pointing to two squires, “ride back, shouting the news, call for men to bring pike forward! You, ser, find men to take news back along the line to the rearguard, inform Ser Conrad of what’s transpired—the Dornish may have more surprises in these foothills.” And then, to the rest of the men, he remarks, “My lords, we must hold off this Dornish charge as best we may, to give the pike and Ser Ardon’s knights time to form.” He loosens Blackfyre in its sheath, and draws it. His cousin, the Dragonknight, already has a sword in hand.
Blayne turns his gaze upward, blinking in horror as the Targaryen dragon is replaced by the Martell sun and spear. An involuntary sneer forms upon his features as he gazes up at the men and women of Dorne, reigning his horse in a brief moment after the king. As the ‘fleeing’ Dornishmen turn to face the advancing column. At first sight of the charging Dornish knights the Northman wrenches his plain blade from its scabbard and snarls. The kings words are almost lost in a combination of the confusion of the men behind, the frightened whinnying of his horse and the jeers of the Dornishmen on the fort. Drawing back to the king and his other retainers, the knight takes his place in the line and slaps his horse on the neck. Already the tension in his gut has wrenched into action, as though his stomach were going into convulsions. He knew this would pass, once batle were joined, though until the king gave the order to charge he knew that it would not pass. For the time being, the Northern knight simply stared at the advancing Dornish knights, having wiped all expression from his face. He would not let them see his panic or confusion. “As I said yesterday ser…”, his gaze would turn to ser Albyn then, “...there is nothing to be done now but our duty. If we fall, we will fall having done no less than that.” His mouth would be set in a firm line then, stony gaze turning back to the Dornish.
Albyn begins to unsheathe his sword, but thinks better of the situation, and pulls out his bow and a quiver of arrows fletched with albino crane feathers. “Your Grace, this madness was beyond anticipation, but we can buy ourselves time. I am loathe to suggest you parley with someone who has proven herself without honor, but parley is sacred even to the Dornish. It would allow us to augment our vanguard, assess their numbers, and formulate a plan.” Ser Albyn sighs, notches an arrow to his bow, and directs his gaze in the Blackmont bastard’s direction.
Daeron turns his destrier about, men behind him yelling, roaring commands, struggling to get helms on as their squires hurriedly hand them up. He stares against the glare of the sun to the high walls of Yronwood, and the maid—well, the woman with the sword there. And then, in a most unkingly fashion, he leans over in the saddle to spit on the ground. “That’s for her, ser,” the Young Dragon replies. “Do you think these horsemen will stop because we have a banner out?” An angry shake of his head, and a hand lifts to lower his visor, but his crowned helm and the fine, black plate with the dragon embossed on the breastplate will let all know who he is. His voice booms out, “Mayhaps if we survive the day, we’ll have time to parley.”
And with that, the king calls aloud, “Knights! Squires! Men-at-arms!” There’s an answering shout from many throats. His sword rises, and then falls as he yells, “FIRE AND BLOOD!” And with that, he leads a counter-charge with what horsemen he has with him, battle companions and captains, a paltry number in the face of the great sweep of Dornish cavalry bearing down. Anything, it seems, to win a breath, a space for forces to gather to fend off the Dornishmen.
Albyn joins the battle, resigned in his duty, and saddened by his inability to rescue the moment from bloodshed. Shying away from the melee, Ser Albyn looses arrow after arrow into the exposed joints of the Dornish rebel knights from the rear of the Young Dragon’s charge. Between breaths, Ser Albyn glances at the Yronwood fortress, watching and waiting for Caitrin Blackmont’s next move.
Blayne responds with many others as the king calls on them to join him in this charge, his throat rubbed horse by the passage of his roar. The flat of his blade is then laid firmly against the rear of his mount. Keeping close to the king, but not close enough to impede the charge of the kingsguard the knight will crash into the charging horsemen only a brief moment after the king, sword held high in a wordless roar that feels as though it is about to tear his vocal chords apart. That tension is gone now, replaced only by an emptiness. All that matters is the next moment now, there is nothing but the sword in his hand, the horse beneath him and the man in front. The way it should be.
A bitch, perhaps, but no bastard is Caitrin Blackmont. She kisses her fingers to the King when he turns her way, but she does not lead this army, and it would seem that she has no further part in this affair, save to accept the short hunting bow offered her.
She nocks an arrow in concert with the line of men on either side of her and there is a pause—a sort of intaking of breath that is broken only by the creaking of loaded scorpions and catapults on the walls themselves, and the ominous shouts from man manning worse unseen beyond. Arrows are set alight then, a rapid stream of fire leaping from one to the next, and then the man with Caitrin—Laurent Dalt?—gives a shout.
A deadly rain of flaming arrows, giant bolts from the scorpions, burning pots of pitch from the catapults and a hail of boulders from unseen trebuchets pours down on the Westerosi army. The arrows keep coming in rapid rounds; the boulders and bolts slower as the engines are reloaded.
Lemons, scorpions, golden hands, yellow flames, crowned skulls: such are the banners which dot the great wave of the Dornish charge, brave knights in their shining armor and bright robes sweeping like a flood across the scrubland towards the king’s wedge of horsemen, the white cloaks of the Kingsguard fluttering about him, and great and brave knights hurrying to catch him, to close around the seemingly-reckless Young Dragon.
Alarm, and more chaos as arrows fall, and stones great and small, catch the edge of the charge—a few horsemen fall—but most of it tumbles into the wild wrack at the front of the column, men running hither and yon trying to form a defense while the king staves off the Dornish charge. Screams and cries, of men and horses, and suddenly there are shouts. “Draw back! Draw back out of range!” men shout, while others give orders, “Crossbows! Crossbows to the east flank! Get those fucking Braavosi up here!”
For once Elmer crakehall and his Lannister men are not amid the King’s charge. Instead the heavily mounted cavalrymen, aremed with long lances that veers tothe side to meet the Dornish flank, and trying to roll it over. The tall knight yells like a madman, leaning his own body into a lance as the charge of heavy steel gains its momentum.
Still the arrows come, no longer flaming, but steady as the rain of a monsoon. The aim of the various siege engines is adjusted, and the hail resumes, finally falling into a pattern of timing so that the stones fall more or less steadily. There are shouts on the walls, men called to fill in gaps, lines rearranged to keep pace with the king—for that is who they all aim for.
Blayne is still spurring his horse forward and ducking low, in case of falling stone and stray arrows, the knight drops the visor of his helm with his sword hand, rolling his shoulders free in their armoured casing. His armour feels light as air, as adrenaline courses through his body, though he can tell that his movement is impeded some. His body is tensed in preparation for the coming collision with the Dornish knights, his eyes not even glancing to his left as a knight falls under the concussive force of a thrown rock. His shield is raised to his left rather rapidly as arrows pound against it, though one of them pierces the flesh of his left leg, thundering through his armour.An enraged roar of agony escapes his lungs from beneath the helm as the crimson red of his own blood splatters his armour, eyes flicking momentarily to the right to gauge the position of the Young Dragon, before flicking back to the Dornish host. After all, hge wouldn’t want to be unprepared for the inevitable thunder of their collision. The arrow is left in his thigh for now, as there is simply no time to remove it.
Albyn grimaces as the siege engines unleash their fury. “Stay mobile, and move forward! Push FORWARD!” shouts Ser Albyn, in his strained and practiced command voice. “We must force them to re-sight their siege machines, lest they murder their own forces!” Fire arrows begin to fall around him, and the melee threatens to swallow him up, making sighting his own missiles a difficult task. Ser Albyn pulls out his store of fire arrows, ignites them from the smouldering ruin of the Dornishmens’ spent ammunition, and sends a hailstorm of burning arrows into the banners of the Southron knights. “Cut down their banners, and you cut down their identity! Surcoats can’t be seen from behind! Their archers will unknowingly kill their own!” Albyn shouts desperately, hoping that not all semblance of strategy is lost to the confusion of bloodshed in front of him.
Arrows fall about him, but by the grace of the gods not a one finds their mark. Or the grace of the Kingsguard, maybe, for the knights press close and hold their shields up, and more than one of the white shields sprouts arrows, and more than one white cloak is pierced. More rattles off armor, and then the the front of the king’s charge is just out of reach—behind him, others less fortunate fall, horse’s screaming as arrows find gaps in such horse armor as they can manage in the blazing heat of the Dornish day—of the archers at the walls…
... but not of the Dornish horsemen. There’s a space as if the world hold’s its breath ... and then the clash of battle, steel on steel, lances snapping, men falling, yells of battlefury and of terror. The king and the Kingsguard drive into the front of the Dornish charge, knights pressing along beside him, but not so much because of greater skill but because most of the Dornish stream past, sending arrows into the flanks of the charging wedge of knights, arrows and throwing spears. And the flank? What Dornish flank? The Lannister cavalry aims at the edge of the Dornish force, only to have the line thin and extend to envelop the charge there as well.
Battle is joined, and it’s a bloody affair. The king roars occasionally, shouting a command, but there’s little variety: “Press close! Keep together!” he yells most often, barely heard over the din of fighting, but others take up the call. Swift sand steeds carry the Dornish knights past the edge of the body of knights, and already they begin to curl behind them. Yet at least in this the king has succeeded: the Dornish have focused on the royal banner in the midst of the wedge, and the crowned helm of the young king, as they did at the Red Flood.
Elmer charges forward, his lancers basically running the Dornishmen over, the massive wedge not stopping and as the lines moves around, the red bannered knights join the king’s charge. Elmer stands up in his stirrups, drawing his sword and sinking it into the shoulder of a Dornish spearman. “Faster, maggots!” he yells as his men, as his horsemen cover the King’s side, and the tall knight uses his warhorse as a true weapon, making him rear to smash his hooves into another spearman’s face.
Albyn cringes as the racket of sword-play begins. He drops his bow and unsheathes his sword, looking desperately to fill a weakness in the Young Dragon’s line as he dons his shield. Ser Albyn spots the king then, protected by the expert sword arms of the Kingsguard, and regrets that his skills are unneeded there. Sweeping his gaze across the Targaryen force, Ser Albyn notices Ser Blayne’s wound, and remembers the knight’s insightful attempt to warn the king. Ser Albyn spurs his horse in Ser Blayne’s direction, resolved to keep the man, and his wits, alive.
Blayne winces for just an instant before battle is joined, his shield being brought around just in time to feel the shock of a Dornish throwing spear slamming into it. As a Dornish knight thunders past, an arrow whistles past his ear, so close that he can hear the whistle of displaced air as the missile vanishes past him. The horse of a charging Dornish knight in front of him is not so fortunate, catching the arrow in the meat of it’s shoulder which makes it stumble. The rider struggles to right his steed and manages it, just in time for Blayne’s blade to meet his neck. Gore splashes up and over his chest and face as sharpened steel parts flesh and bone, all the momentum behind the collision only serving to add to the cutting power his weapon bears. That man is forgotten however, as another bears down on the knight and he steels himself for further impact, the throbbing in his leg dulled down to a gentle ache by the battle fury which courses through his body.
A group of Dornish men-at-arms in copper-plated scales and robes sewn with a spotted leopard holding a battle axe, with blood-painted spears in hand, charge together against the king’s forces, opening a gap in the tight knot of horsemen now desperately fighting to hold on. They close in on a wounded knight, like sand dogs after the weakest prey: Ser Blayne. One throws out his spear with a grunt, only to have it strike the knight’s shield. His sword sweeps out, and he leads the way to attack at the knight and the men about him. One young knight falls, hand lopped off at the joint between gauntlet and vambrace, screaming his last.
And the king? The king’s almost overthrown by a sharp charge, broken only at the last moment by the heroics of his closest battle companions and the White Swords. Olyvar Oakheart reels in the saddle, his shield pierced through by a broken lance, and Ser Reynard’s wound from the Red Flood has opened anew, it seems, for the red blood that leaks from under the white armor at his leg. The Dragonknight and the king fight side by side on their horses, the steeds stumbling, almost floundering. Smoke-grey Valyrian steel rises and falls, rises and falls, and Dornish knights fall before them, but there are always more, more.
The columns have slowly, slowly transformed into lines of pike and archers. Trumpets sound, and a body of horsemen ponderously begins to move, the golden rose on green of House Tyrell on a number of banners, and upon the shield of the knight who commands this troop. Even as the Dornish horse grow bolder, tightening their encirclement around the king, throwing spears at Crakehall’s westermen before bringing longaxes and swords and hammers to bear, it may be that the king’s salvation is at hand.
Elmer whirls his massive charger to smash his hilt into a charging Dornishman, the bloodlust on him, and not seeing such paltry things as banners and crests. As a big Dornishman dares to stop his way, Elmer catches his axe on his heavily aromored shoulder before shoving his own swor under the half visor, crushing the unprotected face. His men hold the King’s side, even if a number of them fall to arrows and axes.
Albyn reaches the injured Ser Blayne as a contingent of Dornish spearmen move toward him. Ser Blayne deftly knocks aside a thrust spear with his shield, as Ser Albyn reaches his flank. The shriek of a fellow knight fills his ears as Ser Albyn watches a severed hand, gauntlet and all, disappear beneath his horse’s hooves. Coring the throat of his assailant, Ser Albyn pushes himself in front of the handless knight, and closer to Ser Blayne, securing the knight’s right side.
Blayne rips his blade from the chest of the last knight to meet him in time to wrench his weapon across the throat of the sword wielding man-at arms, reigning back his horse in time for the animal to snap out a vicious kick that sends another Dornish man at arms tumbling to the ground, his jaw now a ruined mess. In that moment he would spin in his saddle, reacting to the knowledge that someone had moved in so close behind him. His sword arm would be stayed at the last possible moment however, a momentary nod being offered to Ser Albyn even as Blayne righted his steed. Even this brief distraction nearly cost him his life, the Northman wary enough to turn in time to knock the next spear thrust aside with the rim of his shield, hearing a horrific screech as the tip of the spear scrapes across the pauldrons of his armour. No emotion registers on his features, no pain or fear, just a grim determination to kill as many men of Dorne as possible before he falls.
And still the deadly rain of arrows and stones, boulders and pitch, falls from the walls of a defiant Yronwood.
The Dornish foot in the distance are formed, but they keep their place, ranks upon ranks of spear men interspersed with bodies of archers—clearly there to act as a bulwark for when the Dornish cavalry withdraw. A reserve of a few hundred horsemen can be seen, the banners of Qorgyle and Uller flying there. The Dornish knights are not yet ready to withdraw, however, as they press on, crushing the wedge of horsemen into a tangle of men, arrows darting out through space to find the slot of a visor, to prick a horse in the flanks, and spears thrust and cut and—
And then the horsemen under Ser Ardon Tyrell’s command crash into the battle, most of the Dornish opening a space and avoiding the long lances, but a few are ridden down and over thrown. The knights—largely bannermen of the king’s own domain, Stokeworths and Darklyns, Wendwaters and fierce men from Crackclaw Point—drive on, the Dornish peeling away and lobbing their last throwing spears at them, sending arrows back over their shoulders with a rare show of horsemanship that could almost rival the Dothraki across the narrow sea. Ser Ardon yells to the king, his unbroken lance stained with some Dornish knight’s blood as he sweeps it back to show the way he came. Daeron, surrounded by knights now, given a respite from enemies, can be seen nodding his head. A horn sounds: retreat, back to the waiting lines of pike and archers, filling the narrow end of the Boneway now and just out of reach of the siege engines of Yronwood.
Elmer hears the horn too late and as the other knights withdraw, he and a handful of his knights are caught in the press, a small armored fist in the milling Dornish silks. He curses loudly as his horse is speared and the big knight rolls to the ground, coming up pn his feet, fighting back inch by inch.
The Westerosi knights well out of reach, the Commander of the Yronwood forces calls a halt to the barrage, and the rain of arrows and stones ceases. But the archers remain ready to resume whenever someone strays within range, and the relentless sun gleams off the golden silk robes of the lady who remains at the commander’s side.
Albyn hears the clarion call of a horn, the young knight recognizing the summons back to the safety of the Boneway. “Ser Blayne, I suggest you take your leave, and bring him with you!” Says Ser Albyn, indicating the knight whose hand had been shorn off. “I’ll guard your withdrawal and make my way to Crakehall’s Westermen.” Dropping his sword and shield, Ser Albyn takes his bow in hand, noting in dismay the few arrows left in his quiver.
Blayne does indeed drag the one-handed knight onto his horse with a rough tug of his sword arm, shield being brought up to turn aside the blow of a Dornish axe. Taking only a moment to slam the pommel of his weapon into the forehead of his assailant with enough force to cave in his skull. His blade would then turn and be pointed in the direction of Ser Elmer, now fighting on foot and surrounded by a press of Dornish soldiers. “We have to get to the Crakehall!” He calls above the din of steel crashing into steel and flesh and the roars of dying men. Without even waiting for a response from his now companion, the Northerner spurs his horse in the Westerman’s direction, hewing a path with all the urgency he can muster. His plan is to rescue the man, but he has no desire to be left behind, after all.
Albyn watches the king’s retainer gallop toward Elmer Crakehall’s stand. Ser Albyn cuts his annoyance short, reminding himself of Ser Blayne’s estabished authority. With no choice but to follow, the Red Lake heir gives chase, notching an arrow to his bow and watching the beleaguered Westermen with anxiety.
As the bulk of the king’s horse withdraws, Dornish swarming behind them, taking up their bows again to send arrows into their backs, Ser Ardon Tyrell’s knights act as a rear guard and hold their ground for a little while to screen the withdrawal. Blades cross, more men fall on either side, and then they’re following after the king. One group of Tyrell knights, seeing the plight of the westermen, breaks off to give them support. The Dornishmen, so focused on Crakehall’s men, notice too late as the men-at-arms charge into them! Horses scream, and men with them, and one of the reachlords yells, “Back to the column if you value your lives!”
Elmer takes a mace against his helmet, and the knight with the boar on his torn surcoat staggers but manages to stay afoot and fight his way atop a new horse, retreating with the rest, and finding the safety of the King’s entourage. he fights to take off his battered helm, his eyes bloodshot from once not from drink but from the hit received. “Luckily I’ve a thick skull…” he mutters
Albyn sighs in relief as Ser Ardon Tyrell’s men bolster the failing Westermen. As Elmer Crakehall tumbles from his steed, a foot of spear buried in his horse’s skull, Ser Albyn takes the opportunity to bury a shaft in the offending spearman’s throat. The battered knight with the boar on his surcoat takes a mace in the helm, but manages to keep steady. “Ser Elmer!” yells Ser Albyn, looking fiercely in the direction of the Crakehall commander and proffering a hand, “Join me! We’ll ride double to the Boneway. You can’t die here.”
Hounded by the Dornish knights harrying their retreat, the king’s knights come nearer and nearer to the lines of pike and archers. At a command, companies of pike part to open a gap for the horsemen to ride through.
Blayne turns his horse swiftly as the Tyrell knights slam into the Dornish warriors, making a break to carve a gap for the stranded knights to rejoin the kings wedge through the press. Hewing the arm from one mounted swordsman who has the audacity to bear down upon him, the Northman dashes back toward the safety of the Westerosi lines. “Keep that shield up on our right side, boy!” This the knight yells at the one armed boy who rides with him, aware of the siege weapons and archers likely to pepper them with ammunition on their return. Spurring his horse to the very limit of the beasts capabilities, barely slowing even when a spear is thrust at his face, his shield barely interceding between his eyes and the blade. It is simply now a race to return to the lines before the Dornish press swallows them for good.
A stream of knights now flows through the gap of pike, some of the boldest Dornishmen still giving chase until the last possible moment, sending their final arrows at the back. Some misjudge—as the gap of pike closes, the Braavosi crossbowmen on the flanks suddenly let loose bolts. A dozen Dornish knights sprout feathers, and tumble to the ground. The rest of the Dornish knights briefly pause, to recover horses and the wounded and the dead that they can, to find a handful of wounded king’s men who were left behind in the retreat to take as hostages, and then they move to join the main bulk of the Dornish army.
“A maester!” a shout goes up: Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. Not for himself, no; for the king, for an arrow guided by fate found a gap in the armor, plunging into the back of his shoulder after piercing mail.
In this lull, a cheer goes up on the wall to see the Young Dragon so injured, however slight it might prove to be. Only then does the vision in gold silk remove herself from the walls, guided by the Sand Dog amid shouts for horses and other such things. The archers remain, however, standing there in good order to keep an eye on the King and his army.
There’s a great deal of activity now, as exhausted knights, many bearing wounds of battle, dismount from horses, squires and grooms and servants all swarming, and other knights and lords trying to put to order the defense of the column as the king is preoccupied. Others fight against the growing rumors moving back through the long, long lines of the army, that the king is mortally wounded, even dead. A bright afternoon turns towards darkness, and after a string of victories the impossible has happened: the king’s promise to save Yronwood has proved false, for he has arrived too late, and has been injured in the bargain.
Gritting his teeth, Daeron protests, “I barely felt it! A flesh wound, little more!” But as he tries to lift his arm to work his helmet off, to show his sweat-covered face, he gasps aloud and leaves it be. His squires move to help him off his destrier, and he stumbles briefly before finding his feet. He’s ushered off to no less than three maesters, as an awning is spread. “Coz,” he tells the Dragonknight before disappearing behind the grey robes as the maesters consult and work to remove the arrow, “give Ser Ardon my thanks for a timely arrival. Have him and the rest of the captains prepare a well-founded camp.”
Albyn passes within the gap of awaiting pikemen, Elmer Crakehall sitting before him. As Aemon the Dragonknight’s cry of “A maester!” goes up, Ser Albyn hastily dismounts, unable to see for whom the maester was called, but fearing the worst for his king. Hearing rumors surge past him of the king’s death, Ser Albyn rushes forward to the gathering throng, but his fears are put to rest as he hears the strong, proud voice of the Young Dragon passing his wound off as a minor inconvenience.
Elmer looks up to see the King hurt, and he reaches for a wineskin. “Check if it’s not poisoned first!” he cries, as the big man still staggers and throws away his dented helm. His bloodshot eyes look at the castle that has been lost. “Treachery again…”
A horn sounds at the gates of the castle on the rise above the growing Westerosi camp. Behind the portcullis are a trio of riders, one bearing the Martell sun and spear banner, the other the rainbow banner of truce. But the portcullis does not yet start to rise; instead, the riders—Caitrin Blackmont in the center, unburdered by banners—wait to be noticed, the trump sounding once more in peremptory summons.
Blayne pauses for an instant as the rumours reach him regarding the king’s untimely demise, though this fear only lasts a moment. Shaking those thoughts from his head with an angry grunt, the knight throws himself from his saddle and onto his feet, grunting with the repressed agony which shoots up his left thigh from the arrow still lodged there, though now broken halfway up by the press of the melee. Without a word, the Northman helps the wounded knight he bears down from his horse and passes him off to two other young knights who are milling around. “Damned archers…” These words are mumbled out as he limps in the direction of the Young Dragon, each step onto his left foot causing the knight to wince visibly as he makes his way to his liege. Likely he should be searching for a maester, but at the moment his only thought is for the safety of the king. Without Daeron, after all, the campaign is lost.
“A parley banner, your grace,” a voice can be overheard, as there’s a sharp intake of breath just a maester picks out the arrow from Daeron’s shoulder. One of them takes it from the other, and sniffs at it, and then tosses it aside—no poison, it seems. But being tended as he is, the king cannot meet the men. A murmur of conversation, and then Ser Reynard Caron, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, moves away. Pausing, he glances around and then says, “The king asks for some knights to join me, in meeting the parley.” The old knight waits for responses, before moving to take horse. Someone grabs hold of the king’s banner, and it’s Ser Reynard who carries it in the end. Once all is ready, he and the other knights ride forward.
At last the portcullis begins to rise and Dorne’s parley party comes forth. As they come close, it become clear that Caitrin wears a copper-plated shirt of leaf mail over her golden robes, and she smiles like a cat coated in poured sunlight. The parley party stops just a few paces beyond the castle’s gate and waits once more for the Westerosi to send their representatives.
Albyn , upon hearing the Dornish horn, spies the assembled trio flying a truce banner just beyond the Yronwood gate. “Ser Blayne,” calls Ser Albyn, gesturing toward the portcullis, “It seems the Lady Caitrin deigns to speak with us. The king is in no condition to see her, perhaps you can rally a healthy retinue to treat with her.” His speech is interrupted, as the fierce Ser Reynard’s voice overwhelms his thoughts. Hearing Ser Reynard’s proposition, Ser Albyn’s heart races at the prospect; an opportunity to earn the fealty of part of the Southron forces, and ingratiate himself to the king. A the Yronwood gate rises and Caitrin Blackmont leaves its protection, Ser Albyn moves to join Ser Reynard.
Elmer hears the words, and his eyes shine fiercely. “Oh, really?” he shakes his sweat matted dark hair, and he orders his squire to bring him his horse. He looks up, but as the Dornish don’t move away from their gate he stops. “There’s no chance of catching them from behind. Though it’d be appropriate payback for their treachery..’ he stands down, not wishing to be part of the delegation.
Blayne starts slightly as the horn blast echoes from the walls of the fortress, turning his eyes to Ser Albyn with eyes partially glazed by pain and loss of blood. He blinks this away, however, more than willing to fight through the wound on his thigh in the name of duty. Still leaking blood slowly and with a good few inches of arrow sticking from his upper thigh, Blayne scrambles back onto his horse with some effort. Spurring his horse to a quick canter for just a moment, in order to catch up with Ser Reynard and Ser Albyn. The wound on his thigh looks rather bad, to any who might look, though the gore which leaks from it mingles with that of the Dornish dead and dying, the Northman spattered with red from head to foot. “I will join you, there may well be no limit to their treachery, sers.”
The Lord Commander frowns at Ser Elmer a moment. “They played us a trick, ser, but little’s forbidden in war,” says Ser Reynard, a man who forged his legend in the crucible that was the Dance of the Dragons, who’s seen half a hundred battles and witnessed many a stratagem. He points to the Dornishmen, and the peace banner they carry with its seven stripes and the seven-pointed star upon the staff. “Attacking them when they carry that is one of those things.” And with that he turns, and mounts. The king’s banner is handed up. He waits for the others to be ready, and then he leads the way to meet the Dornishwoman and her companions.
With their three, unarmed people well outside the gates now, the archers on the walls cluster three deep with bows ready to draw should any attempt be made against the trio. When they are near enough to hear her, Caitrin speaks in a voice that is low and purring.
“Greetins from my lords of Manwoody, Uller and Dalt,” she says, bending her head politely toward the Commander of the Kingsguard and his companions, Blayne and Albyn. “I am Lady Caitrin Blackmont, daughter of Ser Perrin of Sunspear. We come to offer parley to the King of Westeros. But alas, I see he is… indisposed.” She clucks her tongue sympathetically. “I trust it was not a mortal wound.”
Albyn takes a moment to drink in the sight of Caitrin Blackmont and her attendants before responding. “His Grace is most pleased that his soon-to-be subjects were able to touch him. It means his journey south, and his objective in securing its arms and loyalty, is a worthwhile pursuit. Lady Caitrin, I am Ser Albyn Crane. You no doubt know Ser Reynard Caron, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. I am also pleased to introduce Ser Blayne Condon, a retainer to the aforementioned King of Westeros, Daeron. You may remember him from when you were our captive.”
Blayne remains silent for the time being, allowing Ser Albyn to engage the Lady Caitrin in parley. His own eyes drift up to the archers mounted on the walls for a few moments, wondering which one of them was able to skewer him so. However, upon his introduction to the Blackmont woman, the knight would turn his head back in her direction and offer a bief nod, waiting for Ser Albyn to finish speaking before adding. “Enchanted.” A simple word, yet so dripping with scorn that it might have been an arrow of his own, let fly at her. No doubt the woman would not care, but neither would Blayne. Quickly he would reign his emotions back in, wincing just slightly with every movement.
“I only know Ser Reynard by reputation. Well met, ser,” Caitrin says, bending her head to the man before fixing her deep blue eyes on Albyn. “And you, Ser Albyn. Ser Blayne.” Another pair of nods.
The sarcasm she seems not to notice. “On behalf of my lords of Manwoody, Uller and Dalt, who themselves act for and speak on behalf of our sovreign Prince Marence Martell, I demand that your King garner his forces and retreat the way he came. Return to Westeros, good sers, for there is nothing for you here in Dorne.” She pauses, then glances over her shoulder. “We have some of his men, taken when we took the castle…” she says carelessly.
Atop the wall, a half dozen men are jostled to the fore. They wear their dragon livery, but their hands are bound and there is a noose around each of their necks.
Albyn regards the men nonchalantly. “You are a remarkable actress, my Lady of Blackmont, as are your men. However, forgive me if the sight of those men in Targaryen livery does not urge the Young Dragon to retreat. You speak of demands to be made of a king, and I say it’s folly and hogwash. Your position is fruitless; before your walls stand the might and fury of Westeros, and such lords and nobility will not be swayed by six lives, a minute fraction of the lives your actions have caused the end of here today, a minute fraction of the men you put to the sword in taking Yronwood. Your ‘demands,’” says Albyn, icily, “will be summarily ignored. Now, would you like to hear the Young Dragon’s terms for peace, the terms of your victory?”
Blayne sighs softly at the sight of the men upon the walls, turning his head toward Ser Albyn in order to await the words of the other knight. He simply rests upon the back of his horse, returning his attention to surveying the movements of the men atop the parapets of Yronwood with close scrutiny. The Northman, concerned by the Dornish penchant for treachery, is wary of a sudden spray of arrow fire. The six men wearing nooses are barely noted, his attention being passed between the archers on the walls and Caitrin Blackmont and her retinue. For now Albyn seems to have the situation well in hand.
Caitrin waves a negligent hand. “Oh, to be sure. ‘Bow to my rightful rule’ and so on. We have heard it any number of times and I say to you again: Daeron Targaryen is not now, nor has he ever been, rightful ruler of Dorne.”
She turns in her saddle and looks up at the wall, then nods once. Two of the prisoners are suddenly and without ceremony lifted and tossed through the crenellations. They scream briefly until they reach the end of their ropes—and one’s head is removed by the force of his fall and his blood sprays over the red-brown stone as he falls.
Albyn is unfazed by the display of violence. “My Lady, you are an ambitious and proud woman, and make no mistake, that is no insult. You would be a Dornish hero, as I imagine your men would claim you already are. Be that as it may, this political upheaval has cost the lives of thousands of men, and your actions would end thousands more, on both sides. The best way to save your people, from the smallfolk on the sands and shores of Dorne, to the lords Qorgyle, Gargalen, and Uller, would be to submit to King Daeron. Bend the knee, and you’ll find that our purpose in securing Dorne’s freedom will be realized. What is an oath, or fealty, to the absence of the threat of violence?”
Caitrin laughs merrily. “A hero? I am just a woman who dressed in boy’s clothes to have vengeance for a home destroyed,” she says, her smile bright as the sun on her copper leaf. Her laughter occasions the gentle lowering of another prisoner, this one to hang and strangle as he rotates slowly in his vain attempts to loosen the noose.
“Now,” Caitrin goes on, not even looking back, “let me see if I understand. We are to allow your King, who has attacked our sovreign nation unprovoked and decided, on his own, that he is our rightful ruler… we allow him to rule anyway. Would you do so, in our place?” She tilts her head to one side curiously, watching the trio of men in their turn while behind her, the prisoner gags and gasps and slowly turns in his dance of death. “What about you, Ser Blayne? If the tables were turned, and we were having this conversation outside of King’s Landing, would you allow us to simply take over? Because we said so?”
Blayne smirks slightly at Lady Caitrin’s question, not ina fashion that is intended to be cocky or offensive, but understanding of the game being played. “Because you said so?” Chuckling slightly at that, he would shake his head with a small smile, careful not to spatter any of the gore which covers his body onto anyone nearby. “However, this is not King’s Landing and neither are you expected to submit simply on our say so.” He would shrug then, turning to watch the last life drain out of the man dangling from the walls with a soft sigh. “Then again, you haven’t taken the time to listen to His Grace’s terms.” He would wince slightly then as his horse trotted backward a step, jarring the partial arrow still protruding from his thigh. He would cover it quickly though, as careful as possible not to show weakness in this situation.
Albyn takes his bow from his back as Ser Blayne speaks, raising a reassuring hand toward Lady Blackmont as if to say no threat was meant. Notching an arrow to his bow, he draws and releases, aiming at the throat of the man in the midst of strangling to death. Lowering the bow, Ser Albyn says, “You have nothing to hold over us, my lady,” says Albyn, hoping Lady Blackmont grasped the symbolism. “Westeros comes south to have back your forsworn oaths. Dorne is under the authority of the Targaryen family, and your imagined right to the emancipation from the Seven Kingdoms is exactly that, imaginary.” Ser Albyn lowers his bow, saying resignedly, “King Daeron offers Liane Uller, the heir to Hellholt, for Joslena Uller’s allegiance. Their family is near extinct, and Lady Uller will no doubt find that reward, along with pardons, a generous proposal. Make sure word of the arrangement reaches her ear.” Ser Albyn finishes, ignoring Caitrin Blackmont’s question.
“Oh, well, do give his terms then, if it will make you feel you have done your duty for king and country,” Caitrin says with a sigh, waving a hand. Behind her, another man is lowered—this one bound round the ankles so he hangs upside down. By the time he reaches the end of his descent, his face is beet red and he seems to be whimpering. The man with the noose around his neck is still jerking spasmodically.
But then Albyn draws his bow, and the two men with Caitrin reach for their swords, without drawing. “Enough,” snaps Caitrin, very much annoyed. “Listen to me, both of you. Dorne was never a part of your precious Seven Kingdoms, and oaths given under duress have are not binding. Go and find Lady Uller yourself to speak regarding her daughter.”
There is a great stirring of anger on the walls, and the three remaining prisoners have their nooses removed. They disappear for a moment from view and horrible screams are heard—then they reappear, well out of bowshot, skewered on pikes.
Blayne sighs slightly at the sight of the men now dangling from pikes, shaking his head slowly. “All very dramatic, don’t you think?” A hand would reach up to indicate the two prisoners then, though he would not deign to turn his gaze back in their direction? “A simple ‘no.’ would likely have sufficed just as well.” His arm would be lowered then, a soft shrug rolling over those broad shoulders as he contemplated something, picking facts from his memory very quickly, before finally speaking. “Tell me, are you familiar with Torrhen Stark? I am, after all, a Northman and I find that such stories as his hold particular sway over me, even now.”
Albyn carries a look of satisfaction while Ser Blayne speaks, again ignoring the violence upon castle Yronwood’s parapets. As Ser Blayne finishes, Ser Albyn says, “Lady Uller will hear from us, to be sure. Please give orders to your men that any messengers coming from our encampment remain unharmed. I trust you will honor this at least, as it was your suggestion?” Albyn continues without waiting for an answer, indicating to Ser Blayne and saying, “Torrhen Stark should be an example for you, but my Lady of Blackmont, entertain no notions that you will come out of this alive. You’ve been granted your life once, only to betray the very essences of mercy and justice to throw it back in the king’s face. For you, there will be only the headsman.”
“Nearly as dramatic as the throats your king had cut before -my- eyes,” agrees Caitrin amiably. “And no. I have never heard of this Stark, nor do I wish to. I care nothing at all for Westeros.”
She turns placidly to Albyn. “No, I will not. I have no authority to give such commands.” Then she turns dark and cold. “Mercy and justice. Is it mercy and justice to be treated as I was by the men who saw me away from the field of battle?” She spits on the ground before the knights. “That for your king’s mercy.”
Albyn looks grim. “If you have no authority, why are we wasting our time on you? Who are you presume on our king’s resources? You renege as you ever have, Lady Blackmont.”
Blayne sighs softly, shaking his head once again. So much for all the time he spent in the maester’s solar, learning about the history of the North. These woeful reflections would last only a moment though, as the woman spat on the ground in front of him. “Tell me, Lady Caitrin, what it is that you think will happen even if the might of Westeros were to leave your lands.” He would glance around then, surveying the fortifications of Yronwood and the men who manned them. “I am certain that it is not too far for the Ironborn, if it were to be suggested to them that loot and plunder could be found in this direction. Nor the pirate captains of the Lysene. Not least, all the future kings and queens of Westeros will covet these lands. Who will keep them safe?” His handsw would gesture toward the men atop the walls and the knights with the woman. “We have already proven ourselves stronger and more capable than all the forces of Dorne, and we will continue to do so. If you were simply to submit, your people would need suffer no longer, and all the protection of the SEVEN…” This word is particularly emphasised, the sylables almost spat at the Blackmont girl. “...kingdoms. Think on that, if you will. Not too long though, we have hostages of our own, though none of them worth as much as those men, I’m sure.” He smirks at that, considering the Dornish highborns currently hostage at the Red Keep.
“Ser Albyn, you speak as if you know me,” Caitrin says, her voice still low and cold, but purring now as well. “I am the most loyal subject in the world—to my rightful lord and sovereign, Prince Marence Martell. But you should know, my sweet Albyn, that it is for commanders to issue commands to armies. I am no commander. I will ask if Lord Manwoody will do so, or Ser Mavros, considering the lady in question is his own niece. Or perhaps my own Ser Laurent, as a personal favor to me.”
She looks at all three men, and seems prepared to take her leave. Blayne she simply looks at, as if deciding if a response is worth her time. “An impasse, then. I do regret that this parley has not been more fruitful. I hope, Ser Reynard,” she says then, addressing the Kingsguard for the first time, “that your King will choose worthier negotiators next time. These silly insults are wearisome and rather unproductive, do you not think?”
And with that, it seems that Ser Reynard believes the usefulness of the parley has come to an end. An unreadable look, judging Caitrin, and then he speaks curtly. “Let your masters know what has been said here, my lady of Blackmont.” And with that, he looks to the other men, and once in agreement they turn to depart back to the king’s host, a hive of activity as a fortified camp is being raised.
“Of course, Ser Reynard,” Caitrin says agreeably. Then the three horsemen wheel round neatly and return to the castle. The portcullis closes behind them with a definite clang, leaving the Westerosi host to themselves.