Rumors run rife, as they always do in the city of the dragon-kings. But they reach a new fervor on the topic of the Stepstones, controlled with increasing ruthlessness by the Free City of Pentos who extracts protection tolls in coin and goods and sometimes even flesh. For the realm of King Baelor, it is a nuisance, but not a great one—or so some argue. And yet in the highest of councils, the king’s own small council, the tenor of the conversation is quite other: the Master of Ships is in favor of a joint expedition proposed by the Lord Protector of Dorne; the Master of Coin would prefer that if anyone collected tolls in the Stepstones, it be the Iron Throne; the High Septon, most notable of all, speaks of the light of the Seven brought to those miserable stony isles where men and women are forced into a brutish existence because of the rapacity and ungodliness of the magisters of Pentos.
And the Hand of the King? Prince Viserys, the king’s uncle, has late begun efforts to further the way for such an expedition. Even now, a dozen war galleys have been recalled to the shipyards for repair and refitting, and four score more are said to be sailing from Dragonstone with similar intent. Officials, too, have been put on alert… or in some cases, have stepped aside for new men, fresh blood, to come into their own and to help see the king’s (eventual) will to be carried out. Of these, the grandest name is that of Lord Allos Swann. With his daughter safely wed to the heir to Storm’s End, and her wedding tourney concluded, there are those at court who had an inkling that he was preparing for a change of circumstances. Meetings with Ser Beron Buckwell, to be sure; but also one or two with Prince Viserys. And not a few with the heir to Feastfires, Ser Farin Prester, who it would transpire was to be named to his office. With that done, Lord Allos bid farewell to his daughter, and with a suitable entourage of household servants and knights departed for his seat.
The only question that remains is whether King Baelor has been convinced by the combined forces of his council. If he has an objection, the whispers go, it’s that an expedition under Lord Velaryon might lead to blows and bloodshed. But his council argues that a show of strength alone will be sufficient to make the Pentoshi back down. (Whether they truly believe that is another question entirely.)
So is the situation in King’s Landing. And far to the south, in Sunspear? The Lord Protector, Ser Quinlan Qorgyle, has lately embraced the notion of an expedition in which Seven Kingdoms dromonds and cogs carry Dornish spears to beat back the Pentoshi, and perhaps provide Dorne a few possessions in the Stepstones from which they can better protect their own trade across the narrow sea. Not all in Dorne are supportive—many claim his own sons, Prince Cadan and the unruly Prince Rhodry are a focal point for opposition—but Ser Quinlan has convinced a number of the Dornish lords that working in this instance with the Targaryens might bring Dorne greater prosperity than it has seen in decades.