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The Dornish forces held the ford of the river that barred the king’s passage along the Boneway for two days, repelling numerous assaults. With daring and skill, they had forces on the other side of the river roving, harrassing any attempts to find a sound water supply, leaving the encamped force to sneak what water they could in the night. The result, under the hot Dornish sun, was a force withering from from too much thirst. Horses, in particular, were the hardest hit—some died thanks to the lack of water. The strange, cool wind from the west was barely any comfort, when the sun was as bright as ever. At the end of the second day, the camp fell into a weary sleep, dreading what would come the next day as rumor ran that the king planned to force a crossing even if it meant bridging the way with thousands of bodies.
When morning dawned, however, pickets saw something remarkable: across the river, the Dornishmen had withdrawn from the bank by a furlong or two, and men were still streaming south carrying tents and supplies, leading horses, and other such things. The news raced through the encampment, and the king was awoken. The cause of this strange behavior from the rebels was clear soon afterwards: the river had grown swifter, and it had risen a foot in the night. It seemed like to raise more. Was it a flood? If so, some Marchers said it was early yet, but the region was known for sudden storms in the mountains that could cause flash floods.
The Young Dragon considered the situation with lords and captains. With the Dornish having drawn so far back out of experienced caution, it left a chance for him to force a crossing at the swollen ford. The danger? Men and horses both would be swept away in the effort, and if the river continued to rise, only a small force might make it safely across before the river grew too high and wild to be passed at all; they would be cut off.
Daeron struggled for a long moment, and then gave the command. A troop of horse with Ser Dagur Saltcliffe, Ser Burton Crakehall, and Ser Elmer Crakehall would cross the river. Behind them, pikemen under the command of Ser Alek Reyne. Behind them in turn, archers and the Sealord’s crossbowmen under the command of the giant Ser Sarmion Baratheon. The king gave the men five minutes to gather as many men as they could ... before he personally would lead the horse across, to serve as a focus for Dornish counter-attack, giving the rest more freedom to reach the southern bank. Five minutes passed, and the horses drove into the river, surging across against the swift flow of the rising water.
In amazement, Ser Laurent Dalt and Lord Mors Manwoody saw the royal banner, and the young king at the head of the troop. They agreed then to attack directly, rather than wait and hope that the river would rise so far as to drown any force that attempted the southern bank. A desperate battle would soon develop, the Dornishmen throwing themselves with reckless abandon against the horse men as floundering, sometimes-drowning forces tried to come across behind. The king was nearly killed more than once, but fortune favors the bold; fortune, and the fact that four of the famed Kingsguard were there to help defend him. Ser Reynard Caron, the Lord Commander, took a spear in the leg but despite this and his age killed several Dornishmen half his age. The Crakehalls battled with Lord Manwoody’s forces, Ser Elmer and Lord Mors duelling for a second time.
Disaster briefly strikes: the king’s banner-bearer is killed and the banner falls. Word starts to run through the force, and the greater army beyond the river, that the king is dead. However, a bold knight took up the banner once more and raised it up, while the Young Dragon made his survival known with feats of arms as the water rose, and rose higher still, leaving men on the south bank wading waist-deep in water; it made for a strange battle, men moving deliberately at one another, foaming, mud and blood-tinted water all about them.
In the end, the king’s cavalry held, and Daeron survived the repeated assaults. Ser Alek’s pike reached the shore and turned Manwoody’s flank at a vital moment, while Lord Mors was injured by Ser Elmer and ultimately sounded the retreat to regroup his forces. In the end, Daeron had the Iron Serpent and Ser Elmer lead cavalry forward to seize as much high ground as they could, between the rising river and the line of the Dornish army on a ridge further south. The pike and archers would reinforce them, and the last of the men to cross the river would have time to catch their breath before joining the defense. Then, the river became too high, and no more men could cross. Some five or six hundred men, perhaps, had made the journey across to the south bank. Some of those had fallen.
And the rest? The rest were outnumbered, up to their waists in water, and without hope for support for an hour or more. What would follow would be four successively desperate skirmishes with the Dornish forces, as Dalt and Manwoody sent wave after wave to try to force Daeron back into the river, or to kill him. Each time, the king’s men held, though not without loss. By the time the river had fallen enough for new streams of men to cross, half the king’s soldiers and knights had been killed, while the Dornish suffered relatively little. Yet with a toehold on the south bank successfully defended, the rest of the king’s army could cross, and in the face of this the Dornish ultimately withdrew. The king would remain encamped near the flooded river for more than a day, having wounded tended to, refilling the army’s water supply, and considering the final few marches to reach Yronwood to raise the siege.
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