Storms had rained their fury on Blackwater Bay and King’s Landing, and it was storms to blame, their downpours and their winds, for the long delay in news from Dorne. So when the rains stopped, temporarily, it seemed perhaps that news would arrive at last…
But it never rains, without it pours.
First a bird arrived bearing happy news, though two weeks out of date: the Dornish had sought a parley to render their surrender to the king outside of Godsgrace, shortly after their defeat and the death of Prince Rhodry Nymeros Martell, the brother of the Prince of Dorne. This news led to much cheer in the hall of the Old Keep, with Prince Aegon and his rascals matching cup for cup as they discussed the pleasures of Dornish women. Princess Daena and her companions were there as well, and Princess Naerys’s chief lady companion, Reyna Saltcliffe, whose husband the Iron Serpent fought in the king’s company alongside her brother the Lord Protector of the Reach, Ser Ardon Tyrell. Even the cold, solitary northwoman Aisling Ryswell found cause to be there, to hear the gossip and the news, as did Rosalind Buckler with her babe on her lap, doubtless thinking of her husband Ser Endros who had joined the campaign. Despite the loud, obnoxious carousing of Aegon and his cronies, the mood was good.
A man of Prince Viserys’s household entered, near to weeping. When silence came, the news he delivered was terrible, nightmarish: the king was dead, his army shattered, scattered to the winds. Tears, screams, prayers—they all followed, a cacophony once the initial shock was done. Some cast doubts, denied—_denied_—that it could be so. But it was, oh, it was. The treacherous Dornish had parleyed under false pretenses, had murdered the king under the holy peace banner, damning themselves to hell. But what could one expect, of Dornishmen? And his Kingsguard? The much-honored Ser Reynard, the Lord Commander, was dead. So too was the bold Green Oak, Ser Olyvar Oakheart, and the Breaker of Yronwood, Ser Osbert Bettley. What then of the most famous knight of them all? Prince Aemon the Dragonknight? Captured, along with Ser Halbert Cordwayner they said, and in Dornish hands. It was left unsaid that it would have been more merciful for him to have a swift death.
Prince Aegon, the Dragonknight’s brother and the king’s cousin, drank harder than ever, draining cup after cup in silence. One man urged him to have his vengeance on the Dornishmen by executing the hostages; was not his father the Hand gone away on the Rosby road, leaving the castle to him? Was not—Aegon struck the man down, and commanded him to silence, and resumed his drinking.
News had reached the Dornish tower, as well, of the surrender—Lady Joleta’s husband, Ser Ethos Mertyns, had written of the Dornish surrender, and she shared the news with many of the hostages after having informed Prince Cadan. It was a sad gathering, unlike the rest of the castle. When bells began to ring, the bells of the royal sept, Ser Aidan Dayne answered that that must be for a fresh raven bearing the news of the king’s final victory, the end of the Dornish rebellion… but then he looked out an arrow loop and realized it was something quite different: servants were weeping, there were laundresses wailing, guards running here and there, and more bells began to ring. It seemed, after all their worries, that the king was dead, or some disaster had befallen him and his grand army.
And in the keep? At last Prince Aegon spoke, and asked the message-bearer the one question that had not been asked: who had done the deed? Who had killed the king? And the knight replied, it was Prince Rhodry, Prince Rhodry Nymeros Martell. And that explained what they learned next: Prince Viserys had ordered the Dornish hostages executed, carrying out the threat that had hung over them since they first set foot in King’s Landing. Aegon, in drunken fury, was only too happy to obliage: he had Damarya Allyrion and Corrent Gargalen fetched from their cells, Valeria Blackmont fetched from her solitary place in the Kitchen Keep ... and said he himself would go to the Dornish tower, to seize the Dornish hostages and drag them to Traitor’s Walk where they would pay in blood for the crimes of their kin.
Not all were in agreement. Princess—now Queen—Daena protested this, attempted to stop her cousin. Lady Reyna sent men to race as swiftly as they could onto the Rosby road, to find Prince Viserys and bear him the dire news. Lady Aisling fled the Old Keep, perhaps out of fear for the bloodshed to come. But nothing would hold Prince Aegon, nor his unruly mob, whose ranks swelled as they left the keep and made their progress towards the eastern end of the castle.
The Dornish did not sit idle, however. Lady Joleta and Prince Cadan had, it seemed, done far more to defend the Dornish in such a case than any of their fellows imagined. They had a plan for escape, thanks to the Gargalen heir’s efforts to find one of the rumored secret passages. She had found one, one that could lead them from the castle and perhaps the city. But first, the Mertyns guardsmen her unwanted husband had set on her were in the room, and outside were four of the castle’s guards.
What to do? Prince Cadan gave the command to Ser Aidan Dayne, the best of the knights, to see to overwhelming the men, taking their garb, and helping to first lead women and children—Princess Ariana, his sister, chief among them, and his own mistress as well, his Lysene concubine—out of the tower without drawing suspicion. Ser Aidan hesitated, muttering about taking care, while his cousin Tanyth Toland and her twin Ser Tamlyn seemed dubious of the plan entirely. Was it not better to barricade themselves in the tower? As Ser Aidan argued, the new king, Baelor, was a godly youth, and one like to be merciful. But the plan was prepared, and the Prince and the heir to Salt Shore feared that there was no hope from that quarter. For one thing, Prince Baelor had a habit of attending the afternoon sermon at Visenya’s Sept, attending on the High Septon himself. Who would bear a message swiftly enough to him, if someone like Aegon decided to be rid of them?
No, they must carry out the plan, and Ser Aidan acquiesced. Joleta’s minders were beaten unconscious, and then the guards outside were tricked into entering—all but one, who left to seek more aid—when they were told that the Mertyns men were brawling with certain Dornish knights. Overwhelmed as well, with one of them killed by Ser Tarion Sand, the knights donned the garb of the guardsmen, while those who were about to escape donned plain brown cloaks in hopes of not drawing attention. The first group slipped out, Lady Joleta leading the way, Ser Aidan and two knights guarding Allia of Lys as well as the children Princess Ariana, Selara Dalt, and Farien Yronwood. They crossed the yard, trying to be inconspicuous, guardsmen escorting common women and children…
... when Prince Aegon and his mob arrived. Ser Halbert Cordwayner of the Kingsguard had joined them, rather than trying to prevent the prince, and at a window Lord Terin Ryger, the master of laws, could be seen watching events unfold without lifting a finger. The mob loomed nearer, nearer ... and then some men noticed the little group, trying their hardest to appear normal, perhaps trying too hard to do so, or given away by the dark skin of Ser Aidan’s face as he threw a fearful glance over his shoulder. Aegon sent men to pursue them, and the Dornish hostages fled for their very lives! The rest of the mob drew on to the Dornish tower, when Prince Cadan—half-naked, stripped to smallclothes and his cloak so he could be as swift and light as he could be with his bravo’s sword—and others charged out, a valiant attempt to sacrifice themselves and delay the mob from sending more men after the children.
It almost worked. Prince Aegon was slashed and stabbed several times over by the whipping, darting blade of the Martell prince, Tanyth Toland’s knife stabbed more than one man, swords rang briefly—but they were too many, far too many. Like a tide, men dragged down Dornish hostages, clubbing them with spear shafts and the butts of polaxes, seizing them with jeering, mocking cries. Some managed to fight their way back to the tower, and they shut the door behind them, and held it.
Men were sent to fetch polaxes and halberds to batter down the door ... but then there was a surprise: the escaped Dornish were brought back under guard. Did Aegon’s mob catch them? No. Preston Wayn, the lame master of whisperers, and a troop of Viserys’s household knights had intercepted him. The whys and hows of it would remain a mystery to the mob, who cared little for anything other than blood. Yet Wayn attempted to protest Prince Aegon’s plans, only to have Aegon knock him aside.
Seizing hold of the young Martell princess, Ariana, Aegon shouted that he had her and she would die. In the Dornish tower, the grief-maddened Cadan attempted to open the barricaded door, to escape to his sister, only to be restrained by the Tolands and others. He collapsed, weeping. The polaxes began to cut into the door ... and now their hopes crushed, the hostages had little they could do but wait.
And then the doors were splinters, and they were dragged out, most giving themselves up to their fate with little struggle. Joining those captured earlier, they were marched towards Traitor’s Walk, as Aegon had the gates of the castle opened to the Kingslanders outside who had gathered to shout for the blood of the Dornish as the news of Daeron’s death were tolled from every sept in the city. The prince, furious in his drunken way, condemned even the beautiful Cassella Vaith, his own mistress. It was a dreadful sight to see her tears, screaming his name as she was dragged away with the others. Then Lady Aisling Ryswell arrived, riding bare back on her lathered black stallion, trying to tell the mob to stop, that Baelor had been informed, that Baelor was coming even now in all haste.
The only effect was to make Aegon hurry, however. Of all the hostages, it was Prince Cadan who was brought to the block to die first. He fell to his knees, battered and bloodied, grief-stricken as the crowd howled for his blood.
But something had changed in the yard, as out by the gate the crowd suddenly began to grow quiet, and this rippled through the mob. The crowd began to part, men and women alike began to kneel: it was Baelor, riding pillion behind a white knight, Ser Jaesin Lannister of the Kingsguard. Even Aegon came to kneel, and over his face passed a look of intense ill-ease. Baelor came to the platform on which Cadan knelt, and alighted from the horse. He climbed up, and in his high, clear voice he urged that now was a time for prayer and mourning, not for death. With his own hands, the new-made king lifted the weeping Prince Cadan to his feet, and with the sleeve of his own robe did the Targaryen king clean blood from Cadan’s face. Some whispered in the sudden silence that he named the Dornish prince brother, and he forgave Prince Rhodry in the same breath.
And suddenly, it was over. The new king had come, and from him came such calm and such faith in the Seven that none dared gainsay him. When Baelor suggested Aegon should join his wife, Naerys, in prayer, the prince was meek in the face of it. When he ordered the hostages to be taken safely back to their apartments, it was done without hesitation. The crowd departed, no longer thirsty for blood, instead marvelling at the holiness of their new king, and ashamed of the monstrosities they were prepared to witness.
So began the reign of Baelor the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Man, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm. Even though he did not yet wear the crown, he was king in all ways that it mattered. When Prince Viserys arrived later that evening, a horse nearly dead under him, he found the Red Keep preternaturally calm. Where was Baelor, he asked? Praying, praying. Shortly after saving the hostages, forgiving his brother’s killers, and restoring peace, Baelor had entered the royal sept. Not to thank the gods that he was king, no; to pray instead on the soul of the Young Dragon, his beloved brother Daeron, and on all the souls—subjects and Dornish rebels alike—that had perished in his war. Baelor would take no food or water, fasting and praying for a day and a night without sleep.
After all this, the arrival of the white raven dispatched by the Conclave of the Citadel, marking the beginning of autumn, was hardly noticed…