The realm has known peace—only some trouble on the Stepstones, put to an end by Lord Velaryon and Dornish allies, was of any real note—in the last year, and some see this as a sign of the divine influence of the Seven smiling down on the reign of pious King Baelor. There are those smallfolk who have taken to calling him Baelor the Blessed, for the winter had been mild south of the Neck and few have suffered hunger from it. Singers tell of the king’s miracles, and of the greatness of the sept rising on Visenya’s Hill to glorify the gods. If they forget to tell overmuch of Baelor’s more curious decisions, from attempting to convince the Citadel to use doves instead of ravens to his notions of placing maidens in chastity belts, who can blame them?
Such concerns are remote for those who live hand-to-mouth, who are concerned only with enough food on the table and that they are not called to fight in their lords’ petty disputes; for them, for most of them, Baelor’s reign has indeed been blessed. The story may be different in the North, where even a mild winter will be deadly, and where a king smitten with love of the Seven will find few who consider him admirable for his piety; and different again in the Iron Islands, where the Drowned God holds no truck with the Seven, and the reavers still ply their bloody trade in the waters. But for many, especially in the crownlands, these are blessed times.
Yet not all is at peace. Bandits and broken men are still to be found haunting the kingswood and Crackclaw Point, as three septas recently arrived to King’s Landing tending to a bloodied, beaten man could attest. The three holy women had come to the city on a pilgrimage, to see the mighty sept rising and perhaps to catch a glimpse of the High Septon or even the king himself, leaving their motherhouse on the Holf of Men escorted by half a dozen brothers from the great septry there. It was on the kingsroad, not far from the city itself, that they were beset by outlaws who slew two of the poor brothers and drove away the rest before seizing the septas and their goods, carrying them away.
The septas prayed for deliverance, sure and deliverance came when a rustle in the woods revealed itself to be a herd of pigs… and coming behind them, a swineherd with a staff. At the women’s cry for help, the peasant cried out to the Warrior and came at the outlaws with his staff, and though outnumbered three-to-one he succeeded in braining one, crippling another, and sending the last fleeing despite having taken seven wounds. The septas tended to their savior, Will of the Misty Wood, and insisted on bringing him with them to the city.
Now rumor runs rife of this hero being tended by the High Septon himself, and there are those at court who whisper that King Baelor has taken an interest in this unlikely hero, that he has commanded the Dragonknight himself to knight him… and all at the same time as another whisper has grown stronger: that the king and Prince Viserys are, at long last, seeking to fill the final place in the Kingsguard, long left unoccupied. Rumors have run wild for the selection of a knight worthy of the white cloak: grand tourneys to put late King Daeron’s great tourney to shame, quests to find the burial place of the ancient Andal king Hugor of the Hill, ritual gelding to ensure chastity, and other such like things.
That last would rule out the king’s kinsman, Prince Aegon, for a certainty; it is an open secret that Aegon can be found at the docks whenever the woman called the Black Pearl comes to port, and there are merchants who say they’ve heard from acquaintances in Braavos that Bellegere Otharys has had two daughters that she has claimed as Aegon’s own offspring.
Peace reigns in distant Dorne as well, overseen by the Lord Protector, Ser Quinlan Qorgyle, for Prince Marence has remained on his long convalescence in Starfall. His son and heir, Prince Maron, was received with all due pomp and circumstance when he arrived in Sunspear on his way to join his father in Starfall, and Ser Quinlan was happy to have his grandson near after so long away in King’s Landing with the embassy there. It’s said he’s less glad that there was someone else like to be at Starfall when the young prince arrived: Ser Mavros Uller, Ser Quinlan’s great rival, who had gone to Starfall to visit the ailing Prince of Dorne and who had, for reasons unknown, contrived to remain there when Maron arrived.
The former Keeper of the Tower of the Sun, Ser Mavros had been one of the most influential of Prince Marence’s advisors following Dorne casting off the Targaryen shackles but had fallen into disfavor when Ser Quinlan Qorgyle took up the office of Lord Protector. He had kept out of the court’s eye since, even when his bastard daughter Samara Sand broke with Prince Rhodry and disappeared from Dorne after the alliance with the Iron Throne put an end to Pentoshi, but now there are courtiers who see him maneuvering again to rise to prominence. After all, Prince Daeron Targaryen—Baelor’s young cousin—will be wed to the Princess Mariah next year, in an arrangement some say Mavros had a hand in, and what better time to return to influence?
Others, too, may well be thinking of such things. Is it a coincidence that after little more than a fortnight of negotiations, Lord Neilyn Toland had agreed to wed his sister Tanyth to none other than Prince Rhodry? Toland succeeded Mavros Uller as Keeper of the Tower of the Sun, a result of his own maneuvering in alliance with Ser Quinlan to force Uller out of court, and now the rumors say he’s seeking to bind himself closer to the Martell princes to entrench himself in his office, a project that has found favor with the Lord Protector who seem to yet harbor hopes of taming his wild, infamous youngest son.