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The feasting hall of the Sandship witnessed Prince Marence hosting Ser Alyn Velaryon, the king’s master of ships and commander of two of the chief forces in Dorne, and a number of other knights and lords in the king’s service. It was a relatively somber affair, the Dornish men and women present less enthused than even the knights from beyond the red mountains for the most part, and some of the guests at the high table were less than pleasing conversation. Ser Alyn, the famous Oakenfist who seized the Planky Town and smashed a Dornish fleet off the Broken Arm, was a genial man, it’s true, but Ser Meros Tyrell—Mad Meros, as some call him—carried on with his peculiar notions, speaking in Valyrian for the most part until he was chastened by Caitrin Blackmont and Velaryon. The conversation, such as it was, was about inconsequential matters—hunting wild goats in the mountains, the quality of Dornish wine, and so on—although beneath it all was the sense that Velaryon represented the continuing policies of King Daeron, which Prince Marence accepted with discomfort but little, if any, resistance while the much of the rest of Dorne chafed. Ser Meros left soon after, perhaps in a sulk at being rebuffed at his obsessions with the Valyrians, though he muttered of some experiment.
But as music played and wine was poured, outside in the shadow city, and then the rest of the Old Palace, matters were different. Black wings carried black words ... but not for Dorne. The news spread like wildfire, and any of the king’s mens roving the pillow houses and winesinks of the shadow city found themselves set upon, attacked and murdered. Soon the joyous violence entered the Sandship itself, and when Prince Marence sent a guardsman to investigate, he was pre-empted: the doors were flung open, his brother the wild Prince Rhodry holding a spear, and behind him dozens of other men. Shock and outrage ensued, as Marence demanded the meaning of it. Rhodry delivered the news:
Lyonel Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden and the king’s virtual regent in Dorne, was dead. He had been murdered at Sandstone, the seat of the garrulous, blind old Lord Qorgyle, who had heretofore been among the chief of the Dornish lords to seem to bend the knee and serve the Young Dragon. Details were slight in Sunspear beyond that, but for the fact that Tyrell’s host—three thousand strong, veteran men-at-arms all, who had followed him from one castle to another at each turn of the moon—was destroyed, the few survivors routed and driven into the desert. And more, Hellholt had risen, Lady Uller apparently informed of what would happen by her hated brother, Ser Mavros Uller, who had seen to the death of Lord Caston Vaith and to that other outlaw-lord, Lord Andrey Blackmont.
The news had reached Planky Town on the wings of a swift bird, and from there more ravens came, with claims that half of Velaryon’s fleet was burnt, and the other half had fled to sea. This, the dream of liberation, swept the shadow city—no wonder all the violence, and no wonder Rhodry Martell’s assault on Marence’s guests. Caitrin Blackmont, Ser Perrin’s daughter, managed to hold Oakenfist at bay with a knife at his ribs, but Ser Mern Estren, heir to Wyndhall in the west, managed to seize Prince Marence and hold a knife to his throat. Alas for him, Prince Rhodry noted that were Marence to die, he would become his nephew’s Lord Protector ... and he did not seem to be very put out by the thought. It was Elysa Dayne who first called for calm, and at Velaryon’s urging, Estren let go of the prince, unaware that Ser Baduin the Red Spear had been preparing to spring on him, armed with the long knife that he and a number of other Dornishmen had hidden on their person. Marence swore to protect his guests, and commanded them to be conveyed safely to tower chambers under guard.
The tension Marence felt towards his younger, bloodthirsty brother was plain enough, and he rebuffed all suggestions of hanging the king’s men, or beheading them, much to the dismay of some of the knights and ladies present. Indeed, the Prince of Dorne feared that this may be no more than a test of loyalty, a lie conceived by Lord Lyonel or some other enemy. He sent the shariffs under Ser Robin to restore order to the city, to find and bring to safety any of Velaryon’s men that they found (including Meros Tyrell, who had somehow slipped out of the Old Palace), and called on his seneschal to send messages to gather more news. Wearied, anxious, and feeling the shock of having had a knife to his throat, Prince Marence departed, leaving many of the Dornish nobility unsatisfied, although Prince Rhodry was seen to laugh with his own, peculiar amusement at his brother’s reticence to call the spears of Dorne to war once more.
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