And like that, the Yronwood rebellion in the Boneway comes to an end: not with a bloody battle, not with the Yronwood banners dipping, nor the Martell banners. But through a truce, a peace negotiated under the worst of circumstances: a ruse that left the Martell host ill-prepared, more than evenly matched, outwitted. And all because Prince Marence, good and just as he is, gave the Yronwoods one chance too many to surrender itself.
The Yronwood army had been forced—or so Prince Marence thought—to go to ground, to leave the Boneway itself and be driven, step by step, towards a dead end, an ancient place that the First Men used: the Hollow. High walls and a deep ravine made it defensible… but also unescapable. Prince Marence hoped that there, at last, the enemy commander would surrender his host. He did all he could to give the opportunity, and all he could to scour the surrounding area for signs of ambushes by Yronwood banners or by the wily bandits led by Red Rhys of the Scourge and Alyx the Witch who had not been evident.
One day passed. Then another. The commander refused to parley more than once, and Prince Marence increasingly heard from his counselors that they would have to attack the entrenched, encamped enemy. He resisted it, as he told the knights and ladies who broke fast with him, as matters grew heated when Caitrin Blackmont and Liane Uller nearly came to blows over Lady Liane’s fear that her bastard cousin Alyx and her lover Red Rhys were a greater danger than the prince knew. Only Marence’s intervention stopped it, while his brother Prince Rhodry drank his way through the breakfast.
And then trumpets sounded, urgently… as if by some premonition, Prince Marence seemed to fear the worst, to find himself unable to think of what to do. It took Prince Rhodry to rouse him, to hurry him to give commands. A squire entered, dispatched by Ser Laurent Dalt who held the perimeter, and when questioned he revealed it was not the five hundred armed bandits that Lady Liane had feared… it was some two thousand spears and men-at-arms, carrying the Yronwood banner. At a loss, Prince Marence commanded that Ser Laurent would hold the perimeter, and then after a hesitation gave Prince Rhodry the command of the rest of the host.
As the camp roused and hurriedly armed, word came that the other camp—the Yronwod force in the Hollow—was already arrayed behind their entrenchment—and suddenly the Martell force was trapped by two hosts together. At last the Prince of Dorne came to see the new enemy, while his forces were split to defend his position from either side. Even with the numbers Yronwood had, it was not impossible that the Martells might prevail… but it would be a bloody victory, if such it could be called. So when a rider came forward from the enemy host to the east carrying a peace banner, and behind came none other than Linnet Yronwood, escorted by a number of greathelmed guards.
The prince received her, and she spoke lightly, blithely, more a maid than the stern Lady of Yronwood who had seen half her kin killed when Daeron invaded and who had raised her banners in rebellion against the prince. But all could see she felt she had the upper hand, and Prince Marence let her request that several ladies—Caitrin and Liane, but also Mavros Uller’s bastard daughter Samara—attend when she joined the prince in his pavilion and discussed the future with him.
Linnet Yronwood toyed with the prince, until at last he had had enough and asked her to name her desire: recompense, recompense for what had befallen the Yronwoods, and a growing weariness at having to do all that Sunspear bid. She cited the fact that his own envoy had tried to raise her own bannermen against her, and that it was that that led her to seize Ser Mavros Uller. And when Marence denied it… she turned to the one guard she brought into the pavilion, and released him from an oath of silence. And so it was revealed that she had brought Mavros Uller with him, and for a jape had made him dress in the harness of one of her knights, to stand silent and watch. There was shock and amazement, and anger as well, when Uller admitted he had spoken to Lady Yronwood’s vassals after she had rejected Prince Marence’s attempt to settle her anger.
But then the negotiations began in earnest. Prince Marence sent away the others, but retained Ser Mavros with him, and there were those who overheard some of the negotiations through the pavilion walls who said that Uller played a role in hammering out a truce. For near an hour they spoke, some times with voices raised, more often not.
And then it was done, and no one could say Lady Linnet looked very pleased, though Prince Marence looked even grimmer. The first thing the lady did when she left the pavilion, with her guards around her, was to issue a command: “Seize them”. And then three of the knights turned on two others—one tall, one short—and Linnet Yronwood had them delivered to Prince Marence’s own household men. Their helms were removed, and they, too, were revealed: Red Rhys and Alyx the Witch, having thought to be part of a jape themselves, reckless and giddy with the vital aid they gave Yronwood to its near-victory, wishing to see Prince Marence’s nose rubbed in it… and never realizing she would give them up so readily, after all they had done. And so the two most notorious bandits of the Boneway were arrested, separated, and kept under guard.
But that was only one of any number of terms that had been negotiated, and the least of them, because Lady Yronwood knew that with the turmoil done the robber knight Rhys would turn his attention to her own lands, her own people. The other terms? Remission of taxes, the rights to new tolls, expanded pasture rights, funds for a new watchtower to replace one burned in the invasion, and more, and more. Minor things, some might say, but all together—and there was rumor of something more, a double-edged sword that both would be cut by, but perhaps the mingling of blood was best…
And so the confrontation ended. And Lady Yronwood’s secret was revealed when her host in the Hollow came forward to join her host to the east: they had been, for the most part, one and the same. For though Prince Rhodry, who had once spent a deal of time in the Boneway, had assured his brother that the Hollow could not be escaped, Red Rhys had known better, and had told Lady Linnet just how men might climb by night down into the ravine, all unseen. In small groups, the encampment emptied, until one man stood for four, making sure the bonfires were lit, doing what they could to seem to rotate their watches, to move about the distant camp. That, perhaps, was the greatest insult of all: had they known Lady Yronwood’s force was not even a match to his own strength, Prince Marence could have fought and won with less cost than he reckoned.