The winds blow, and ships from all corners of the world sail from port to port, bringing trade, bringing travelers, bringing news. From the Summer Isles, where the rarest of woods grow, the tidings are of the Stepstones being of late swept almost clean of corsairs and pirates and reavers; their swan ships are rarely disturbed, and they speak of great war galleys flying the Velaryon seahorse beneath the Targaryen three-headed dragon as an explanation for it all. From Qarth, where silks and jewels and rare antiquities can be found, the pale sailors tell of a war between the men of Yi Ti and those of Leng, of vast fields of poppy and crocus and cloves being set alight, and the inevitable disturbance that will cause in the flow of spices from the Jade Sea. From New Ghis, where slaves of all kind can be bought, the sallow men with red-black hair complain of a barbarian, a Dothraki khal, who has accepted vast gifts from the triarchs of Volantis to bring his war-taken prisoners to their fleshmarts rather than to Slaver’s Bay, and they say that the Volantene do this at great cost for the sole purpose of antagonizing the Ghiscari cities into a war.
All this and more is brought from port to port.
And in Braavos, from whence the purple-hulled galleys sail far and wide, where sailors the world ‘round take in the Secret City, all three tales and more are told. But Braavos has its own affairs, in that sinking city amidst the Titan-guarded lagoon, its own conflicts and its own mysteries. Some say the Iron Bank and the Sealord are at odds, despite Donalo Prestayn having been one of their own before he was elevated to that seat. But the reasons are varied: to some, it is because the Iron Bank presses him to make sure that Braavos has a role in the control of the Stepstones if Pentos and Lys go to war over it, and to others that the Sealord wishes vast sums of loans for a grand project of public works that he has envisioned. Others still suggest there’s no division at all, and instead all the Sealord’s troubles come from certain lords and ladies, men and women of influence, who have started to doubt him, who think back on the wars of his predecessor, the Lion of Braavos, and miss the victories (if not the defeats, and the lives lost, and great costs), and think Donalo is too much a banker and too little a warrior.
There are those at court who make note of the confluence of power in the city, great men from belligerent Lys and Pentos, princes of royal blood from Westeros, and yet the Sealord does not meet with them himself, despite having good cause to do it. If he delays somewhat, it is understandable—it would not do to have princes and magisters think they have him at their beck and call. But to have strings of minor officials answer for him apologetically, claiming he is busy, promising to arrange audiences soon (but “soon” never comes)? Few can fathom the Sealord’s thinking, and there are those who think (but rarely dare say aloud) that Donalo Prestayn has become too enamored of playing the Sealord rather than being it.
And others still? Others still remember his rise to prominence, first with the Iron Bank, then in the cut-throat days following the unexpected (still mysterious) death of his predecessor, Ferro Antaryon. If he plays a dangerous game, perhaps it’s to the best…