As King Baelor—still ailing—nears Storm’s End to be tended by Lord Baratheon’s maester (a renowned expert on treating injuries and illness caused by snake venom), away to the north in the Red Keep, Prince Viserys rules the realm as best he can. Even with all of his experience and skill, it’s said that he has begun to feel the weight of all of his duties, and seems both more tired and shorter of temper than is his wont. Though Prince Aemon the Dragonknight is now safe and sound, escorting the king, his other son ... well, the less said about Prince Aegon’s doings, the better; no man, and certainly not Viserys, seems able to quell the wanton, wicked behavior of the prince or his cohots.
Instead, the prince attends to other matters—appointments, decisions, bills and laws—with the help of the small council and the veritable army of officials who help to run the court. When the King’s Counter, after long years of service, announced his desire to withdraw to his familial seat to see out his last years in peace and quiet, a new man was needed. Only recently, the King’s Scales had done much the same, and Ser Burton Crakehall—heir to that old, notable seat in the west—was put to his place. Now the King’s Counter as well? A man of great experience was needed to fill his place, a man to assist the master of coin Beron Buckwell in overseeing the taxation of the realm.
As it transpires, that man appears to be Allos Swann, Lord of Stonehelm in the Red Watch. A man of some fame for his talents as a scholar and as a patron of the Faith, he was chief of the royal mint in Oldtown at a young age, and such were his prospects that the Baratheons wed a daughter of their house to him. Their estimation of him was clearly not wrong.
Yet others might look to him and wonder ... he is a noted Marcher lord, and the Marches have been a source of trouble ever since King Baelor’s… “mishap” in the Boneway, with various knights and minor lords calling for revenge, for a punitive expedition, to make sure the Dornish do not think them toothless. Already, two villages on either side of the border between Dorne and the realm have been put to the torch by overzealous men, hungry for glory and for vengenace, and it is all that Lord Dondarrion of Blackhaven can do to protect the entrance to the Boneway and prevent more bloodshed. Could Lord Allos’s appointment at court be some maneuver, something to make the more calculating Marchers to pause their would-be hostilities as they wonder at what part the Swanns will take, and what part his good-kin in Storm’s End will choose to play?
And elsewhere, other things must be dealt with—trade missions from across the Narrow Sea, all clamoring for access to goods now that the Braavosi seem more concerned with peace than war, and the rumor of bandits in the kingswood, cut-throats in King’s Landing, worry at the Wall as the Lord Commander asks for funds and supplies to prepare for winter before it arrives, arguments among the Most Devout concerning certain matters of doctrine, ironborn raiders troubling the waters around Lannisport, and any number of ills, both great and small. No wonder the Haggard might seem a little haggard, and not a little out of temper. Courtiers know to walk softly around him, and to avoid bringing trifles to his attention…