Blood of Dragons

The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' MUSH


Gathering Force
IC Date: Day 16 of Month 1, 161 AC
RL Date: September 30, 2009.
Participants: Caitrin Blackmont, Perros Blackmont (emitted by Balerion), Laurent Dalt, Davit Gargalen (emitted by Balerion), Lysanne Manwoody, Marence Nymeros Martell, and Ser Quinlan Qorgyle (emitted by Balerion)
Locations: Sunspear: Tower of the Sun

Summary: The Prince of Dorne announces a momentous decision, and calls upon his gathered court to advise him. Tensions run high before a plan is made.

Beneath the golden dome of the Tower of the Sun, the throne room of the Martells echoes to the sounds of no more than a score of courtiers—mostly knights in the Prince’s service—gathered about talking in low voices with one another. A summons called some here, the invitations of the summoned brought others, but they all wait now for Prince Marence.

Not all the great and mighty of Sunspear are here, but many are: Robin the Gross, various of the Blackwoods who control so much of the doings in the Old Palace, and so on. Not, however, Prince Rhodry. Inspecting the walls still, it’s said, and hating every moment of it.

Beneath the golden dome of the Tower of the Sun, the throne room of the Martells echoes to the sounds of no more than a score of courtiers—mostly knights in the Prince’s service—gathered about talking in low voices with one another. A summons called some here, the invitations of the summoned brought others, but they all wait now for Prince Marence.

Not all the great and mighty of Sunspear are here, but many are: Robin the Gross, various of the Blackmonts who control so much of the doings in the Old Palace, and so on. Not, however, Prince Rhodry. Inspecting the walls still, it’s said, and hating every moment of it.

Among the Blackmonts is Caitrin of that name, standing demurely at her aunt’s side and listening to something the woman is saying. She is, as usual, clad in fine white sandsilk and jeweled sandals, but there is a faint smudge of dirt on one cheek, a smudge which her aunt notices with a clucking tongue and a licked thumb.

Last to make an appearance is a slim man in purple over-robes of sandsilk, wandering in as if by accident. Perhaps he has, in fact, perhaps he has not; perhaps he has been summoned, perhaps he has simply turned up to see what is afoot. With the Sand Dog, it is always difficult to tell.

He is greeted by a few men—notably, most of them are young lords or knights, the older ones keeping their distance—and greets a few in turn. An agreeable nod to the Blackmont clan earns him a frosty look from Ser Perrin.

The lone Westerosi face in the sea of Dornish, Lysanne Caron, Lady Manwoody, awaits the arrival of the Prince. Her pale skin is porcelin against her black gowns and her long tresses of copper are wound in an elaborate stye. She is wrapped in heavy, almost melancholy, dignity as much as the sandsilk around her.

With little fanfare, and less ceremony, the prince enters. Marence is joined by his young son, Malor, dressed in robes and holding himself very formally for a boy of ten. The boy’s grandfather, Marence’s father, Ser Quinlan Qorgyle, is like a shadow behind his son. Two of the household knights that trail them stop at the entrance, while the rest goes on. At the dais, Malor touches his son’s shoulder, and leaves him to sit on a great pillow laid upon the floor. His father, too, stops, but remains standing while Marence mounts to one of the paired thrones. The consort’s seat, of course, is empty.

“My lords, my ladies,” Marence says in greeting, with a brief sweep of dark eyes over the crowd.

There is a murmur of silk and homage as the assembled court bows and curtsies to the Prince, the Blackmonts almost as if choreographed. Caitrin notes the arrival of Laurent Dalt just before the Prince’s entrance and makes a face just before sweeping down toward the floor with her family.

The Dalt knight somehow ends up beside Lysanne, a marked contrast to her in every way. “Why so serious, my lady?” he asks behind a thunderous yawn; his eyes are indeed a touch bloodshot. “We haven’t started killing your—”

Marence enters at that moment, and Laurent leaves whatever he meant to say unfinished, inclining his head as the Martell prince passes him.

Lysanne tilts her head faintly to acknowledge the Sand Dog, her austere expression not changing one whit. A husband at war with her own kin, her oldest two children hostages and her youngest, a sickly girl not thought to live to adulthood. The Lady of Kingsgrave has a fair amount to keep her sober and serious. Likewise, she is forestalled from replying by the entrance of the Prince and dips her curtsey in submission.

Perhaps the prince caught something of what the Sand Dog said, or mayhaps it’s just coincidence. “Lord Blackmont now threatens Kingsgrave’s garrison,” the prince announces, “with the ladies Fowler and Dayne lending their aid.” A few murmurs, here and there, at that news. He seeks out Lady Manwoody then, and with an inclination of his head to her he adds, “And Lord Manwoody is still holding the greater part of the Boneway. However, the Yronwood garrison presses him. Ser Mavros Uller leads Sandstone’s spears, we have been told, to join the Ullers to threaten Yronwood in turn, to try and draw them back to defend their fortress.”

A longer pause, to let that sink in. In that time, his son Malor listens with unusual attentiveness for a boy so young. Then Marence adds, “There is a problem, however. Godsgrace is as strongly held, and the king’s sellswords hold Vaith as well. They can travel up the Greenblood and quickly come upon the spears of Sandstone and Hellholt. It is a problem we must resolve; and doing so without forgetting Oakenfist’s fleet sitting in Salt Shore, ready to pounce on Sunspear and the Planky Town. What say you all?”

“A canny man, Ser Mavros,” comes Laurent Dalt’s voice in the silence that follows the prince’s revelations; distinctly amused, it has several shadings. “How many men has Lord Manwoody, my prince? When Daeron comes, it must be along the Boneway.”

“And as for Vaith and Godsgrace,” he says more slowly, “they are removed from the heart of the fighting for now. Best to make sure they stay that way. What better time to take the quarry than when it is cut off from the rest of the pack?”

The Blackmont men confer in low tones, then Ser Perros steps forward, tall and gruff with a mane of grey hair and a fine robe that does little to soften his roughness. “Lad’s right,” he says curtly in a bass rumble. “My nephew can harry Godsgrace and while he does, we ought to run up and take Vaith. Start securing our fortresses on this side of the mountains so we can go and secure the Prince’s Pass.”

“Forgive me, my prince, good lords and sers.” Lysanne dips her head respectfully as she speaks. “I understand little of warcraft, but why -must- the Young Dragon come along the Boneway? Could he not travel by ship and make landfall at Salt Shore?” She queries.

Others speak up, knights and lords, some in a confusion, others in a clear space. One of those, after most of the others have had their say, is Lord Davit Gargalen, exiled from Salt Shore at the king’s command, and now free but impotent without any of his sworn spears to hand. “Lady Manwoody is right! The sooner Salt Shore is wrested from Velaryon,” the rightful Lord of Salt Shore says, “the better. Without it, Velaryon may as well whistle for a harbor, for all the good that will do him, and that boy king will have no good place to land so long as the Tor and Ghost Hill hold.”

Some raise objections, others agreement, and Marence can be seen shaking his head; he says nothing, however. It’s his father, the grey-haired old knight, who speaks up instead. “Ser Perrin knows the strength we have. Lord Manwoody has perhaps two thousand men, if one counts Red Rhys’s bandits. Lord Blackmont, perhaps a thousand now, and more promised from Skyreach and Starfall. And here at Sunspear, Ser Ulwyn’s raising men as quick as he can, but we will be lucky if we have three thousand when all is said and done. We must think about the most effective use of what little we have.”

“Your exile must have left you feeling unwell, my lord,” Laurent calls across to Davit Gargalen, plainly sardonic, “if you think Lady Manwoody is right. If Daeron has to sail around the arm, he might as well cut his journey short at land at Sunspear itself. No, he’ll not do that, not with the whole length of Dorne up in arms behind him. He would be the nut between the hammer and the anvil, however many men he might bring.”

He considers, head cocked; then, watching the prince, he finishes: “But he might land further down on the northern coast. If we are to stop him with the few men we have, we must deny him a line of supply. Salt Shore can wait. The more castles we can take in the north before Daeron comes—by Boneway or sea—the better.”

“Aye,” rumbles Perros, his low voice cutting through much of the chatter. “Take the fortresses and we’ve undone his work. Or send a few good swimmers to start fires at Planky Town if we must, but an assault on ships from the land won’t work.”

“When I take advice from a whelp—” Davit Gargalen starts, but Quinlan can be seen catching eye and shaking his head; the two old knights are allies in this, it seems. Checking himself and leaving the rest to a glare, Gargalen instead says, “If Sunspear and the Planky Town is held against him, risking a landing with no other harborage nearby if it fails is madness. Velaryon had taken Ghost Hill and the Tor, both, before moving on the Planky Town; I doubt I’m the only one as recalls that. Without them, he would have had to sail back as far as Estermont or Tarth—aye, or even the Arbor—to keep his fleet from starving or dying of thirst. Without Salt Shore, he’ll have to flee Dorne entire, and we’ll not the knife of his ships at our back.”

All the while, Marence listens, and lets the lords and knights argue without saying anything. Clearly, some take Gargalen’s part, but others share the doubts of the Sand Dog.

In the midst of the babble, a woman’s voice joins in, piping above the lower tones. “Enlist the Planky Town’s whores,” it says. Perros Blackmont looks in surprise at his sweet-faced grand-daughter—but he listens.

Caitrin, taking this as encouragement, speaks again. “In a single night, they could do a great deal of damage to Oakenfist’s fleet. Enough to have him limping, anyway, and looking to his defenses. If the King thinks we mean to attack while the fleet is wounded, we can take the forts behind his back.”

Lysanne listens to the chatter, the suggestions and finally, Caitrin Blackmont’s idea. She doesn’t comment further.

The Sand Dog meets Lord Gargalen’s glare with a slow smile that manages to be bland and insulting at the same time. But it is to the prince on his throne that he speaks: “Daeron is—”

He is cut off by Caitrin. A little silence that follows her suggestion—and then his laughter rings out: “Most daring, most excellent, my lady! Let Oakenfist beware the wrath of the whores!” There is laughter from some of the younger knights and lordlings who have been agreeing with him as well.

Until he suddenly changes tack, leaving them bemused. “Let the whores see to Oakenfist,” he repeats, and with no hint of japing this time. “Them, the Orphans, the people of Salt Shore. Pinpricks to harry him, keep him wondering, while we look elsewhere. Because I still say that he is not the one we should be worrying about, my prince.”

“You numbered them yourself, the men we have. Daeron will have many times that. With or without Oakenfist, he will be as difficult to shake off as a flea on a dog’s arse if we let him gain a foothold and set up his lines of supply. We must look to preventing that first.”

Now Marnece speaks, bringing silence. “We do not have the strength to attack Salt Shore, Vaith, and Godsgrace all at once, my lords. I would that we could,” the prince says, “but Sunspear and the Planky Town cannot be left bare of defenders. It would be a sad joke if we threw our strength at Salt Shore, only to leave ourselves open to Ser Alyn’s ships.” He looks down to Lord Davit then, and says, “My lord, I promise you, Salt Shore shall be freed. But we must win more spears, and quickly.”

A pause then, in the wake of that, his father speaks. “Vaith, and then Godsgrace,” Ser Quinlan says. “The Greenblood will be entirely under our control if we can win them backwe can more swiftly send spears north against Yronwood with my brother’s spears, while having men free to come back down to besiege Salt Shore.” The mention of his brother is enough to excit a few looks among the crowd—Ser Quinlan and his elder brother Lord Ganos are hardly on speaking terms.

Perros bends low to say something into his grand-daughter’s ear, and whatever it is takes the sting of the laughter out of her cheeks and makes her smile slowly. She nods, and then they are listening to the Prince. The Blackmonts, every one, look quite pleased with what they hear.

“And Daeron will have a hard time of it without Yronwood or the Greenblood,” the Sand Dog adds. He inclines his head to Quinlan, “As your lord father says, my prince. I agree. Oakenfist has waited so long. He can wait a while longer.”

Gargalen seems to accept the argument grudgingly, if his silence can be read that way. Others still are not silent, however, and more and more argue in support of the Sand Dog and Ser Quinlan. When there is enough of a consensus, Marence raises his hand. “So be it. Yet we must prepare our defenses, and have the strength to hold them, in the face of an attack that must surely come.” He looks over to the Keeper of the Sandship, and then his father, as he asks, “How many are needed to deal with Vaith and Godsgrace?”

It’s Perrin who answers, after a moment’s hesitation, “The Bright Banners number some five hundred men, my lord. Perhaps ... six hundred spears?” He looks a question to Ser Quinlan, to see if agrees; the old knight nods to his son. “If they can fight off Beslon the Bad and his Free Cities scum—they’ll surely try to attack as they approach, rather than risk being trapped in a castle—then the smallfolk will join them and make a siege easier, if it comes to it.”

“They might be scum,” Laurent notes, “but that does not make them any less dangerous. These are hard men, and that whoreson Beslon”—there are more than a few disapproving looks at such language before the prince, but he does not seem to notice them—“hardest of all.”

“I should know,” he adds with an entirely straight face and a flash of unholy amusement in his eyes, “given my lord father’s vast experience with Free Cities sellswords.”

A hand lifts, and Marence strokes at his bearded chin, considering Blackmont’s estimate, and then Dalt’s words. He studies the man, and then says. “Very well. Eight hundred spears, to Planky Town, where six hundred will be ferried north by the orphans. Let them take Vaith, and if they succeed, to march on Godsgrace as swiftly as may be.” Nods and mutters of approval, while others consider speculatively who will be tasked with the command. Will the Prince lead them himself? Or leave them to his brother, or even his aged father? Or..

“Ser Laurent. Ser Baduin,” Prince Marence Nymeros Martell declares. “You will share the command. You both know something of the Free Cities and its sellsword companies; mayhaps that will prove of use.” A longer pause, as Ser Quinlan can be seen to look up at his son, frowning, not at all sure of this. “Ser Ulwyn and Ser Perrin will help select the men, and arrange supply… and one thing more.”

And with that, the prince has decided; not merely sitting at Sunspear, awaiting Velaryon and Daeron, but actually sending forces to battle. “My lords and ladies, I thank you. You may withdraw,” the prince now says to the gathered court, while the look that encompasses his advisors and councilors—and the newly appointed captains—suggests they are to stay, to discuss further plans privately.

Rare as it is, it happens occasionally. And it happens now. The Sand Dog is caught entirely by surprise, and it shows to anyone who cares to look at him.

And then, he recovers with a slow smile that is not entirely pleasant. It comes and goes, and then he is moving towards the prince with Baduin Santagar, the fellow captains speaking in low tones as the rest of the court streams out around them.