A hot day beneath the sun, just after noon, and a third failed attack—this one came to blows on the river’s far side, Dornish spears and arrows and swords driving the king’s men back—means there are dead bodies and red blood baking in the heat. Only an unexpectedly cooling breeze from the west alleviates it. The king’s forces on the northern side of the river, after having marched all this way, is stalled here. All the water they could drink is a furlong or two away, and yet the Dornishmen are jealous of it: their archers send volleys at anyone who drifts nearer. Water is now on short-rations, and most of the king’s men rest with dogged unhappiness in tents or pavillions. If the army had a single voice, it’d be grumbling.
Standing on a rise, the white knights of the Kingsguard about him, and some knights and lords to advise him, King Daeron the Young Dragon surveys the enemy disposition on the far side of the river with a Myrish far-eye, holding the tube with its magnifying lenses up to peer through it. The young, handsome warrior-king frowns, and remarks aloud, “There’s fewer of them than there were this morning. Where have they got to, I wonder?”
Among the king’s knights stands Ser Alek Reyne, standing tall and proud as usual, decked out in his full wargear. A chain-mail shirt under a gold-gilt breastplate bearing the Reyne coat of arms across the man’s chest, a red lion with golden claws, a golden tongue with a forked tail upon a silver field. His boots extend up to the middle of his shins, leaving his knees free to bend with a slight plate on the kneecap. Armour reaches up to the base of the breastplate, covering the shins of the knight. He didn’t wear any headgear as of yet and, at his side, an axe is strapped, the man having practicing with this weapon most recently.
He steps forward slightly. “Your highness, if I may…” He pauses for a second. “I would have believed that Lord Manwoody or the Sand Dog might have discovered our plan to secure water to the east, or even that they may have a secret crossing to either side to ambush us. Either way, it’s a possible reason as to why there are less men directly across from us.” Alek had given this much thought and would not have offered his opinion unless he was sure of a near-definite possibility in the options he offered.
Others mutter agreement at the suggestion, and some grunt in disapproval, and it’s true that King Daeron seems ... dubious. “A secret crossing would be much to our advantage, if it existed,” says Daeron, lowering the far-eye to give the older knight a brief regard. “Almost ... too much to be true, ser, don’t you think? If the Dornish had to defend another crossing, they would have no hope.” The youth looks back across the river, lips thinning as they press together… and then he says, “But in case it’s true, we must send another force of outriders to follow after Ser Almer. We’ve men enough to spare See it done, cousin.”
Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, one of the king’s White Swords and the most famous knight in the world, bows to his younger cousin. “As you say, your grace.” And with that, he’s gone, white cloak flapping his wake and in the chill breeze; it’s deceptive wind, making one seem cool while the sun bakes armor and roasts the flesh beneath. The king says after his cousin departs, “If you wish to join him with some of your nephew’s men, Ser Alek, you’ve my leave ... but I think I should rather keep you close, ser, for your advice.”
Alek bows his head slightly. “I am honoured your highness holds my guidance in such regard. If it pleases, I’ll impress your wish to Ser Victor that you suggested that some of our men should accompany the outriders.” He frowns lightly. “I would much rather stay with the main force. Just in case my theories prove to be false. I feel you may also need some of your most experienced commanders at hand in case we are caught unawares.”
“Good. I’m sure Ser Victor would be pleased at the possibility,” the king replies. One or two younger—and, needless to say, ambitious—knights glower at Ser Alek’s back at that, but only when the king’s not like to see them. He lifts the far-eye again to look across the river. “We may try an attack at dusk, to distract them if nothing else, and have men guarded by shieldbearers get some more water. Supplies are low, but the gods willing, just one more day and we’ll sweep them away.” And now there are looks again, but these show much less confidence in the king’s prediction.
“You’re not like to get enough water that way, your grace,” says Ser Reynard, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, who holds a seat on the small council. “Ser William says he’ll have to cut the ration further, as it is.” The blunt old knight seems to be the only one willing to say such things and have Daeron tolerate it. Yet the youth waves his objections away with a brief hand a moment, before supporting the far-eye again. “Where’s you faith, ser?” he asks, an edge of sarcasm in his voice. “We’ve conquered Dorne once before, and we’ll do it again.”
“As you say, your grace,” says Ser Reynard, who does not look convinced. A gust of wind snaps at his cloak, and he tugs at it, frowning away to the west from whence it came. “If we’re unlucky, there’ll be a windstorm in the night,” he remarks to the group, “to tear apart tents and pavilions. The last thing we need.”
Alek turns, shooting a deadly glare at those he catches glowering. It was a glare that stated ‘Go on. I dare you.’ Despite being mature in years, Alek felt perfecctly capable to spurn any up-and-coming knights that get in his way. He turns back to the king once the exchange between the young dragon and Ser Reynard has completed. “If I can take my leave, sire, I will convey the message to my nephew.”
“You may, Ser Alek. A good day to you,” he tells the older knight, nodding his head to him before returning to his surveying of the enemy forces. Others clear out of Ser Alek’s way—including the younger men who were so jealous of the king’s attention—as he departs. The king returns to his commentary on the disposition of the enemy forces, as others listen and remark, considering the problem that could break the king’s march and end his attempt to win back Dorne.