Blood of Dragons

The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' MUSH


A Peace to Worry Over
IC Date: Day 2 of Month 8, 161 AC.
RL Date: April 14, 2010.
Participants: Aidan Dayne, Aisling Ryswell, Baelor Targaryen (emitted by Balerion), Elmer Crakehall, Galwell Dalt, Luthor Rivers, Myles Hightower and Reyna Saltcliffe.
Locations: Red Keep: Northern Outer Yard

Summary: Word of Prince Marence’s counter-offer is shared with King Baelor and members of his court, including some of the Dornish hostages.

From the airy depths of the sept, with its crystals and incense and song, the crowd of the faithful who stream out come into cool, overcast day. Below Aegon’s High Hill, the city has been covered in a blanket of fog, but the Red Keep is above it all. The Red Keep is above many things, in fact—the greatest court in all the Seven Kingdoms, for one thing—and the Targaryens spared no expense. Even with pious King Baelor, who is dressed almost like a septon in the plainest of garments, there’s a train of followers: serving men, ladies of the court, two of the three remaining knights of the Kingsguard (a problem, some whisper, soon to be resolved), and most notably, a septon and a septa who some say are his spiritual advisors ... when the High Septon is not playing that role.

“The Father has given the septon a gift,” King Baelor can be heard to say, in his thin but pleasing voice—a little deeper than it used to be, beautiful when raised in song of holy praise. “His sermons on the need for charity would move even the heart of a barbarian from the East.”

Naerys has come out today, and her ladies are with her, all of them veiled in black lace and wearing black gowns. Ravens, Prince Aegon called them earlier, but there is not a plain or sharp face among them. There are only expressions of piety and serenity, however sincere they may or may not be, and even smiles to be out in company with their frail mistress.

Chief among them is Reyna Saltcliffe, her own face quite pale against the black that surrounds it. She hears a murmured word from the Princess, then nods and remarks so that the King might hear: “Indeed, my lady, it is grievous sad that we must be adjured to charity.”

Following in that train, Ser Luthor is easily the least splendid of those who follows the king, in his simple black and red livery of the king’s household. Though he hardly minds, there is safety in obscurity. To that end, Luthor’s expression is a bland and solemn mask, though when he hears the king’s remark, the smallest of smiles appears. He’s met some eastern barbarians in his time, and he rather doubts a sermon would have made any of them embrace charity; or any other virtue for that matter.

Abjuring the sept, as is his custom, Ser Myles Hightower is not to be found in the royal party: he enters the yard instead from the direction of the Old Keep. Nor is his manner of dress like the royals: wearing a blood red tunic, expensive by the look of it, his mourning for the late monarch of Westeros is signified by a simple black band run about his arm. He walks across the yard in the direction of the practice yards, yet it would the King and his party’s exit from the Sept give him cause to bend his steps towards them instead.

Waiting outside, a little to the side of the entrance of the sept, is Lady Aisling Ryswell. A follower of the Old Gods, she has no business within the sept. Indeed, one might wonder why she now waits here? Her southron kin, the half-sister and her uncle, Lord Ryger, pass her by as part of Baelor’s retinue without so much as a glance in her direction.

Exiting the Sept apart from the royal party, Galwell Dalt, pulls his heavy woolen great cloak around him as he steps into the cold of the yard. Despite his obvious discomfort at the cold Westerosi weather, the Dornishman lingers near doors to the sept, keen to hear what might be said by the king or those who follow him.

There are nods and murmurs of agreement, of course, to Baelor’s announcement. One of the septons says, “Septon Elwood’s service at the royal sept is a blessing for us all, your grace.” As more and more come out, among them is the Dornish knight, Ser Aidan Dayne, holding a copy of the Seven-Pointed Star in his hand. His robes and his coloring mark him as different from most—there are a handful of other Dornishmen here, such as Ser Galwell, but most prefer the quieter, less crowded services—but when he hears the septon’s words, he himself remarks, “I had heard he was a knight, before he was a septon, raised in a noble household. It is no surprise, perhaps.”

Eyes turn to him, unfriendly, and there’s an uncomfortable silence that Baelor fills. “It’s true, Ser Aidan,” the youth says. “He is Lord Hunter’s son. But the gods do not care about birth so very much—even the child of the meanest birth might be blessed and become High Septon.” He starts to say more, when a liveried retainer pushes his way forward through the crowd. “Your grace, we’ve word from Dorne! The Hand’s gathering the council, and begs you to attend at your earliest convenience.”

Reyna, with many of the others in the King’s retinue, stops short. She takes one of the fluttering hands that Naerys puts out to her ladies and chafes it soothingly, all while watching and listening keenly for any news that might come.

Luthor’s smile becomes a look of curiosity as he hears that there is news from Dorne. Politely, he makes his way closer to the king; the three-headed dragon device sewn on his breast easing any complaints from the lords he squeezes past. After all he is the king’s man.

The news sets a few murmurs flying—news travels fast, after all—and it is only a matter of seconds before Ser Myles learns of word from Dorne and approaches the king’s party. He greets a small clump of reachlords as he arrives, though he is quickly shushed as most wish to hear what the king will say.

Galwell is jolted from his silent vigil by the news brought to the king. Standing tall, and moving with quick efficient movements, he passes through the crowd of Westerosi noblemen to stand next to the Knight of Twilight and the handful of other Dornishmen present.
When the small Dornish contingent comes into her view, it becomes plain enough why Lady Aisling is present; her…association with Ser Aidan Dayne has hardly gone unnoticed. She does not move forward from where she stands, however, and so it takes a moment or two for the news to spread, like ripples on the water, through the crowed nearest the King and out to the edges, eventually reaching her as well.

“Praise the Seven!” Baelor exclaims at the news, interrupted from his reveries as the knight kneels before him. “I have prayed and prayed for word from Prince Marence.” Others echo the sentiment, and seem eager to hear the news directly… so much so that the king, responding, smiles beatificially and says, “Tell us all the word from Sunspear, good ser, so we may share in the glad tidings.”

Unnoticed to him, but perhaps to everyone else, was the discomfort of the knight as he spoke. “Your grace, perhaps it would be best to first speak with the Hand. If—”

“No, no,” Baelor says, with a cheerful aspect oblivious to the knight’s uncertainty. “Have no fear. Speak freely, ser.”

The man glances around, perhaps looking for help.

“Your Grace,” hesitates Reyna, still holding Naerys’s hand and glancing at the messenger. “It may be that the news is… not what we have hoped and prayed it will be, or that, if it is too good, it might be…” she hesitates again, and glances toward Aidan and past him at Galwell. “It might be over-exciting to hear it all at once.”

Reyna looks a trifle uneasy at speaking, for she has had to do so more loudly than is her wont; Naerys will not let go her hand, and the hope in the Princess’s eyes is plain for all to see.

Ser Myles, for his part, looks perfectly content to hear the news here, and as the kneeling knight catches his eye he receives only an expectant gaze in turn. “The king has commanded you, ser,” he quietly speaks, urging the pensive knight on. A few others echo the call.

“Indeed, your Grace,” Luthor seconds, appearing at the king’s side and speaking quietly. “And your uncle the Lord Hand may have not imparted all to the good ser,” he gives the other knight a meaningful glance. “Is it not wise then to know all before rumors begin to fly?” he asks.

Galwell is silent as men plead for or against the news being spoken. He would like nothing more than to hear what Prince Marence has offered the King, but he knows his own urging would do nothing to make that so. He waits, and hopes instead.

There’s a moment’s pause when Baelor looks doubtful. But then, for some reason, Ser Aidan speaks, the _Seven-Pointed Star_ lifted up and held against his chest as he does so, “Your grace, having word from our kinsmen in Dorne is so rare of late, it would be…”

“... a kindness,” Baelor says, finishing for the Knight of the Twilight as he eyes the holy book. “The gods command us charitable, and loving to all men as our brothers, and women as our sisters.” He quotes from Septon Elwood’s sermon, a vague smile on his lips, emphasizing his hollow cheeks.

His eyes shift to Lady Reyna and Ser Luthor as he adds, “The truth can cause no harm, I am sure, yet it is good of you to show your concern.” Then he turns to the kneeling knight and says, “Go on, ser. As Ser Myles say, I have given you a command. Whatever follows is not your duty to worry over.”

With that, the knight nods his head. It takes a moment before he says, a little low—the crowd strains to hear—“Prince Marence rejects the offer, your grace. At least, the important part. He’ll exchange the hostages for Prince Aemon and some other prisoners, as you’ve offered, but… Salt Shore, Wyl, he demands their return.”

There’s audible relief when the messenger speaks of the Dragonknight and of the Dornish hostages, but for many it is abruptly cut short as they learn that half of the King’s offer has been refused. Lady Aisling, for her part, bears a conflicted look upon her face, and now she does draw a little nearer, finding herself at the outskirts of the growing gathering around King Baelor.

Reyna bends her head to Baelor in demure acquiescence, but she also lets go a soft sigh that has more of resignation in it. When she hears the man’s news, however, she looks up and smiles at Naerys, whose face has lit brightly. “Blessed news, nephew,” she says in her gentle way, beaming at Baelor.

Keen as he is to hear the details of the Prince’s other offers, Luthor steps away from his king. It’s easy enough to vanish into the crowd with so many other nobles pressing eagerly forward to hear the news from Dorne. Once he is sure that he isn’t likely to be missed. He slips away in the direction of the western portion of the yard walking at a brisk pace.

Myles grins, having won a point, but it is just as quicly washed away by the content of the news. Several others in the growing crowd are visibly displeased as well. “That is no peace at all!” he exclaims.

Galwell’s expression is carefully neutral as he hears the news, though he does shift his eyes slightly in Aidan’s direction. He had no notion the man could be so subtle. He makes note of that.

Baelor looks ... confused at the knight’s report. “He wishes them returned?” he asks, and when he speaks the crowd grows a little quieter, for his quiet voice does not carry high. “Yet all my councillors agree, holding them would ensure peace better than any other remedy. I was sure…”

“Sometimes,” the septa in the king’s train says, “men make foolish choices, your grace. We must pray for Prince Marence, so that the gods may convince them to the path of righteousness.”

Baelor nods his head, fair brows—so fair as to be almost invisible against his pallid skin—lowered in thought. Then he asks, “Was there anything more, ser? A counter-offer, at least?”

A glance to the Dornishmen, Ser Aidan and Ser Galwell and the rest, and then the knight clears his throat. “Aye, your grace. He offered watchtowers in the passes in exchange. ‘Buffers’, the letter called them, to dissuade any Dornish outlaws from raiding into the Marches.” And by ‘outlaws’, of course, Prince Marence likely meant his own bannermen, men like the Blackmonts, Wyls, and Manwoodys.

Reyna sends an unreadable look toward the septa as the rest of the information sinks in, and she leaves Naerys to the other ladies to move toward Myles in her effort to hear better. “They reject the terms,” she says grimly, shaking her head. “That bodes ill.” No advice for the King now.

The Septa’s pronouncement draws a deathly look from Ser Myles, who clearly is not impressed with that suggestion. Reyna’s approach does not go unnoticed, and he replies to her, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Prince Marence would have us trade two keeps for a few measly watchtowers? We have cause to plow salt their fields and burn every city in Dorne, ser—and he wants to give us watchtowers? Will he supply the soldiers for them as well? Perhaps he will promise very nicely not to raid our lands anymore.”

Galwell’s dark eyebrows raise at the word of the counter-offer. “Interesting,” he murmurs to Aidan. Then smiles a little when Ser Myles voices the predictable rejection of Marence’s offer. Galwell keenly scans the faces of the other nobles present looking for some sign of who may be for or against accepting the Prince’s offer.

At least there was a counter-offer, at least. The young king, thin to the point of frailness, clad in a simple, unmarked white robe, considers the knight’s words—and the response that follows. He says, at last, “How many souls have been sent to the gods, Ser Myles, to win and hold two seats?”

Aidan Dayne, so rarely making his voice known in such affairs—so rarely present for them, of course, which may explain it—says in the void of silence that follows, after Ser Galwell’s remark, “Too many, King Baelor, far too many. Too many to win it, and more died losing them in Dorne.” Ugly looks are sent the olive-skinned knight’s way when Baelor’s eyes turn to him.

“The Mother must have wept each day,” Baelor muses, and his eyes have a distant look. The septon next to him clears his throat, and begins, “That may be, your grace, but—”

“Ser Myles,” asks Baelor, curiously, “would the Mother weep to see fields made barren? Would the Smith weep, to see holy septs in flames?”

Reyna listens to this, and in the depths of her brown eyes many emotions war as fiercely as men have in Dorne. She is a daughter of those Marches, has given husband and brother and uncle to the heartless red sands.

And yet there is something in her that hearkens to Aidan as well. “Will you accept these terms, Your Grace?” she asks, her voice carefully neutral, giving nothing away.

Negotiations between kings and princes, theological arguments…none of that is truly the provenance of the pale, dark-haired northern lady who lingers at the outskirts of the crowd that now hangs on every word spoken by King Baelor. And yet, she is no different, though it is not the young king that she is looking at, but rather the Dornish knight who spoke up.

“Too many, my king, as… Ser Aidan states,” Myles answers, echoing Ser Aidan’s counsel. “Too many to agree to what amounts to a White Peace, at the end of things.”

He pauses, meditating on the King’s query. To be honest, he is racking his brain for a response. “Yes, they might, Your Grace—they might at that. But the Father and the Warrior would cry out yet more at a murdered king who is not avenged. It is many bad options, yet if I may be so bold, these terms are insulting. Supplied from the sea by your great cousin Oakenfist, Salt Shore and Wyl could stand against any assault, Your Grace. Prince Marence seeks to bargain high.”

“Too many, my king, as… Ser Aidan states,” Myles answers, echoing Ser Aidan’s counsel. “Too many to agree to what amounts to a White Peace, at the end of things.”

He pauses, meditating on the King’s query. To be honest, he is racking his brain for a response. “Yes, they might, Your Grace—they might at that. But the Father and the Warrior would cry out yet more at a murdered king who is not avenged. It is many bad options, yet if I may be so bold, these terms are insulting. Supplied from the sea by your great cousin Oakenfist, Salt Shore and Wyl could stand against any assault, Your Grace. Prince Marence seeks to bargain high.”

There is a moment in which Reyna flinches at Myles’s bald speech, but then she looks toward Baelor a little helplessly, no words in her mouth to give him and no right as a woman to give them.

The crowd gathered outside of the sept, fresh from the afternoon sermon, attend to King Baelor—young and thin and full of holy zeal—as he recieves a report from a kneeling knight. A report, it seems, which has to do with Dorne. As Ser Myles, Lord Hightower’s younger son, speaks, the king listens ... and his smile fades.

“Vengeance?” the king asks, as if the word is one that’s never crossed his lips before. “Vengeance is folly, ser. You were not here, mayhaps, to know this; but I have forgiven my brother’s killers, before the eyes of gods and men alike.” There’s an uneasy rustle at that, among the knights and lords there—many remember the occasion, but it seems many hoped that the king did not mean to take such rhetoric seriously…

“No, ser,” Baelor says at last, a peaceful smile restoring itself to his lips. “We must put aside such petty things, and think on greater matters. The gods command peace, and I will see it done.” With that, he pauses and starts to say, “I will speak with the small council, about these towers and what we may do to use them to ensure peace between us. It may be that Prince Marence has offered us a new path to peace between our realms, and the Mother smiles upon peace.”
Reyna murmurs some pious words and returns to Princess Naerys, who still looks pleased and stronger than she has since word came of Prince Aemon’s capture. She fades into the crowd to join the murmurs of talk, the rumors that will soon take wing and fly through the city.

Myles grimaces at the rebuke from the king. “As you wish it, Your Grace,” Myles says, stiff as a board. “May the Seven bless you.”

And with that, Myles melts back into the crowd. The moment he is out of the king’s field of view, his stiffness vanishes, and as he stalks off towards the practice fields, he is visibly wroth. More than one lordling he passes can hear him muttering about “no peace”.

Elmer is standing by a tall pillar, for once, a grey tabard with the brindled Crakehall boar on the chest covering his massive chest. He listens to the King’s words and he takes in a deep breath. He looks up at the last words and then he speaks, his voice pitched low, but still strong enough to be heard. “Your Highness, Prince Marence may be a decent fellow, but…there’s another power in Dorne, and Prince Rhodry won’t settle so easily.”

That is true enough, Galwell thinks at Ser Elmer’s words. And glances towards the King to see what his Grace thinks of it. He suspects it will be surprise, or pity for Rhodry and his violent ways.

The reactions to the King’s words are varied, though those who think ill of them mostly try to contain themselves, saving their harsh responses for another place. However, Ser Elmer’s cautions win a lot of murmured agreement.

“It is Prince Marence who rules, not Prince Rhodry,” says Ser Aidan directly after Crakehall… but he leaves it at that.

Yet the king nods at that, and addresses Elmer. “As Ser Aidan says, ser. So long as Prince Marence rules, peace seems likelier ... though never doubt the gods, Ser Elmer; they can open even the hardest heart.”
Elmer snorts towards Ser Aidan, and offers a courtly bow. “The Knight of Twilight is a worthy foe in the field, but I fought in Dorne while he was here in King’s Landing, and had we had to face the leadership of Prince Marence, King Daeron would still be alive, and Dorne woould have knelt. I have crossed swords with prince Rhodry, and he’s an implacable, treacherous foe.” He bends the knee before King Baelor. “My King, do not trust the Dornish as King Daeron did!”

Galwell stirs at last to speak. “Ser Elmer, Rhodry does indeed have a hard heart as his Grace has says. But, I must agree with Ser Aidan and the King, it is Marence who rules,” he says firmly. “And I have had the pleasure of serving the Prince for many years, and his heart I believe is truly inclined to peace,” he turns to the king now, eyes full of earnest conviction. “With some understanding, and if it is pleasing to the Seven, I feel he will make a good and godly peace with your Grace.”

Raising a hand to quell the surge of voices raised in support of the westerman, Baelor says aloud, “Peace, sir! Peace is what must matter to us.” Silence falls fitfully, and it’s in this space that Ser Galwell speaks. Dark looks are aimed his way, and the beginnings of protest, but Baelor seems interested in Dalt’s words. “A good and godly peace… well said, ser,” he tells the man. Mouths turn into hard lines here and there, as men bite back words. “We shall see what the small council says, of course, about this peace…”

And then he turns to the knight who delivered the news. “Lead the way, ser, and I shall follow.”

Elmer groans at the Dornishman’s intervention and shakes his head. “I am only a knight, Your Highness..but I pray you…take your advice from those loyal to the realm not from those who have the interests of Dorne at heart.” He sighs, and then bows his head. “But..of course we must obey your Royal commands.”

Galwell bows deeply as well. “You are kind your Grace. May the Seven smile on you,” he offers in murmured thanks before rising. As Baelor begins to take his leave Galwell joins Aidan. “Ser, perhaps all of us,” he says quietly, nodding to the other Dornishmen. “Should walk togeather to the Dornish tower.” His meaning clear from the dark looks the two Dornish knights are recieving from the King’s entourage.

“You must think on the will of the gods, more,” says King Baelor to Elmer, gently. And then the king and his train of septons and septas, knights, and servants departs. The crowd begins to scatter, most muttering darkly. The Dornishmen retreat together, at Ser Galwell’s suggestion, though Ser Aidan casts a glance to Aisling Ryswell as he moves east towards the Dornish tower.