While war raged in the north of Dorne, at the mouth of the Boneway around the twice-besieged Yronwood, in Sunspear matters had been different. Prince Marence had been quietly gathering spears to his seat, after sending a troop of men under the royal banner, Ser Laurent Dalt and Ser Baduin Santagar at their head, north to join his bannermen in liberating Dorne. This proved successful, with Vaith and Godsgrace freed of foreign sellswords and Targaryen garrisons alike, and the sun-and-spear of Dorne travelled on to the Boneway where they joined Lord Mors Manwoody in taking control of the Boneway for as long as they could against King Daeron’s inevitable response. Though vastly outnumbered, they did some harm to the Young Dragon’s force, and gave as little ground as they could over the weeks of the campaign. In the end, however, the king won his way through.
Only to discover, of course, that Yronwood—one of the last of the Dornish castles still held by a powerful, loyal garrison—had fallen just days before thanks to the efforts of Ser Mavros Uller. And so King Daeron prepares a siege, with a Dornish army in the field behind him, and there seems to be hope. The Dornishmen may be greatly outnumbered even now, yet once Prince Marence can send the rest of his spears north…
There lies the problem. For the other garrison held in the king’s name is Salt Shore, and there the king’s cousin Ser Alyn Velaryon, the Master of Ships, has held a strong fleet and several thousand men. Marence has looked west, waiting and waiting for Oakenfist to make an attack on the Planky Town and on Sunspear itself, and out of fear of this he kept the bulk of his forces close. Temporary horse posts had been arranged, so that men on swift sand steeds could deliver the news in little more than a day if Oakenfist set sail. But yesterday, shocking news reached Sunspear on what should have been the happy occasion of the return of his good-sister, Lady Senara of House Santagar, to Sunspear: ships had been seen mere hours outside of the Planky Town, a score or more of them, galleys from the Free Cities.
With this, it seemed that all of Prince Marence’s hopes were crushed. With the Sealord of Braavos as King Daeron’s ally, and with the Sealord stirring chaos in the Free Cities as he prosecuted his wars, movements of ships and swords had become routine, and there was no warning from the court’s contacts across the narrow sea that any force would be aimed at them. Now it seemed the Young Dragon had played one more of his brilliant tricks. With no warning, and with too few men there, the Planky Town must surely fall. Lady Manwoody counseled that perhaps these ships were allies, not enemies—a thin branch on which to hang a withering hope. Prince Marence accepted the advice, but even so he sent word he wished as many of his spears readied to ride to war on the morrow. He would wait awhile, in hope that more news would reveal that these sellsails were allies.
But all could see that he himself held no such hope. The air of defeat around him was thick.
The next day, Prince Marence donned armor, and made it plain he planned to ride at the head of his army rather than leaving the task to his brother, the infamous yet dangerous Prince Rhodry. This caused disquiet, and in the back of the minds of some was surely the fear that Marence meant to die rather than bend his knees again. Knights and men-at-arms readied themselves in the outer yard, with Prince Rhodry eager to leave as quickly as possible. And then, Maester Renfred ran up to catch the prince, and delivered his news.
From the Planky Town, the orphans wrote that the ships were sellsails, carrying two sellsword companies called the Second Sons and the Company of the Cat. And they were allies. Amazement burst out among the courtiers who heard the news, and disbelief in some quarters. Prince Marence himself seemed stunned. In the end, he asked who hired the ships and men, and the response there led to even more shock for those hearing the maester’s report: Ser Mavros Uller, castellan to Lord Ganlos Qorgyle of Sandstone, had hired them with the backing of certain acquaintances of his across the Narrow Sea. Ser Mavros was once exiled from Dorne in the days when the rest of Westeros was wracked with the Dance of the Dragons, and Marence—finally speaking—reminded the gathered company that Mavros had once led the Long Lances, a sellsword company of the Free Cities.
The turn of events required more deliberation, and it was with a strange, bemused relief that Prince Marence called the great and mighty of Sunspear to join him in the Tower of the Sun to have the letter from the Planky Town read out, and to discuss its implications. It seems, after all, that the prince’s army would not be marching—or if it did, that perhaps the Planky Town would not be their destination.