Post by WildlingKing on Jan 24, 2020 15:39:59 GMT
Brisk wind blew from the Blackwater Bay to the green and barren moor at the border of Hollard and Staunton lands, making the banners of House Durrandon and House Darklyn flicker. Prince Barron was mounted on his war horse, by his side Lord Renly Darklyn. They were surrounded by an envoy of a couple dozen mounted men, among them Ser Edwyn Darklyn, Ser Edric Hollard, Lord Denys Stokeworth and Lord Edgar Fell. With them was also the chained hostage Ser Egbert Staunton – a broad-shouldered man on his early forties, who had grown a shaggy black beard and looked dirty and haggard from his months spent in the dungeons of Dun Fort. They were all looking to the horizon, watching the approaching envoy riding under Staunton banners.
Leading the Staunton envoy was Lord Morgan Staunton himself, a stocky, short and balding man on his mid-sixties. His cleanshaven face was reddened and in his greyish green eyes was a stern glare. Right next to him rode his grandson Jonos, a lean young man on his early twenties with a sullen expression on his beardless face. Next to Jonos was his wife and the hostage of the Stauntons, Emberlei Darklyn, who looked to be in considerably better condition than Egbert Staunton. She was a pretty young lady of nine and ten, with a long and silky black hair that reached beyond her shoulders, and a prideful expression on her sharp-featured face.
A tense silence lingered between the two parties for a while, until Prince Barron cleared his throat. “Lord Staunton, I am glad you agreed to this meeting,” he spoke up with a polite tone, to which Morgan Staunton responded with a tense nod.
“I have no quarrel with you or House Durrandon, Prince Barron,” he spoke calmly, shifting his glare to Lord Renly.
“Aye, it is me he blames for everything,” Renly Darklyn spoke up with a mocking tone. “And if Ser Edric hadn’t captured his oaf of a son his goons would still be raiding my lands.”
“Enough,” Barron barked strictly, giving Renly a meaningful glare. “We are here to bring an end to this conflict, to negotiate peace between House Darklyn and House Staunton, and to exchange hostages.”
“Lady Emberlei is no hostage, she is the lawful wife of my grandson,” Lord Morgan was quick to remark, to which Renly reacted with a sarcastic laugh. “Is that so, Emberlei?” he asked.
“Rook’s Rest is a miserable place with miserable people, grandfather, but they’ve treated me well enough,” Emberlei responded nonchalantly.
“I can see the same is not true for my son,” Morgan said sternly, looking at Ser Egbert.
“I captured your son after he had pillaged, raped and murdered dozens of innocent people on the lands of House Darklyn and House Hollard,” Ser Edric Hollard reminded sharply. “You should be grateful I brought him to Duskendale instead of taking his head.”
For a moment Morgan almost looked ashamed, turning his gaze down and taking in a deep breath. “Innocent people have been pillaged, raped and murdered for years by Lord Renly’s son,” he responded sternly, the anger in his eyes restored. “My firstborn son Ser Merret was merely the latest victim of this Robin Darksails.”
“I’ve severed all ties to the bastard years ago, he is not my family,” Renly hissed.
“Yet you’ve failed to bring him to justice for his crimes,” Morgan said sharply.
“If it is so easy to capture him, why haven’t you done it yourself, Lord Staunton?” Renly asked with a smug smirk.
“Don’t play a fool with me, Lord Renly,” Morgan bellowed angrily. “You are in possession of the largest fleet in Blackwater Bay, yet you claim it impossible to capture one pirate crew. Horseshite, I say. I think you are protecting your precious bastard boy. He never attacks ships sailing under your banners, does he?”
“I will not listen to your foul accusations, lord…”
“Enough!” Barron yelled again, glaring at both Renly and Morgan. “It is clear to me that this Robin Darksails cannot be allowed to continue to practice piracy on Blackwater Bay. I shall degree in the Storm King’s name that Lord Darklyn must increase his efforts to bring him to justice.”
“And what of my son’s life?” Morgan asked bitterly. “Lord Renly has refused to compensate me for it, even though it was his flesh and blood who killed Merret.”
Renly was about to speak up, but Barron raised his hand to cut him off. “The Storm King and House Darklyn together shall pay a compensation for the loss of your son’s life. Two hundred pieces of gold will do, I’m sure.”
Lord Staunton didn’t look entirely satisfied by the proposal. “Four hundred,” he haggled. Barron turned his eyes to Renly, who shook his head.
“Three hundred,” Barron proposed with a sigh, and after a moment of consideration Morgan nodded begrudgingly.
“It will do.”
“I assume we can then move on to the exchange of prisoners,” Barron said tiredly, glancing at Ser Egbert and Lady Emberlei.
“But, my prince,” Jonos Staunton spoke up with a gulp. “Lady Emberlei is my wife. I do not wish to give her up.”
“You could always come to Duskendale with me, husband,” Emberlei suggested with a sly smirk. Lord Morgan did not look at all pleased by this development.
“I believe it is for the best that Lady Emberlei returns to Duskendale for now,” Barron stated calmly. “If Jonos wishes to join him he is free to do so.”
Ser Egbert’s chains were removed, and with his head hung low he walked back to his father. Meanwhile Emberlei proudly took her place between her father and grandfather, while Jonos Staunton looked on with a troubled expression, but ultimately stayed by his grandfather’s side.
“Well, that went better than expected,” Edgar Fell quipped quietly with a relieved tone.
With a stern expression on his face Barron rode between the two parties. “Now that there is peace between House Darklyn and House Staunton, we should turn out attention towards Riverlands,” he spoke with an authoritative tone. “The Faith Militant has disturbed the peace there once again, crowning a false king and threatening to overthrow the Storm King’s rule over the region. We must act swiftly, to root out this rebellion before it thrusts the Riverlands into chaos and further bloodshed. An army loyal to the Storm King is being gathered at Duskendale as we speak, and I would summon you to join us, Lord Staunton.”
“You have returned to me my only remaining son, Prince Barron,” Morgan stated quietly, looking at Ser Egbert who had by now found his way atop a horse. “You have my gratitude, and you shall have my swords and spears, as many as I can deliver.”
As they began their ride back to Duskendale, Lord Denys Stokeworth approached Barron. “I take it you aren’t planning to contact the lords of Crackclaw Point?”
“That will have to wait for after the war,” Barron answered with a sigh. “Back in Duskendale Lord Renly informed me of the large tributes this Aelor Celtigar has been paying him. He is clearly not just some lowly pirate, but one with the wealth of a king. Gods know how he got such wealth. Regardless, I believe the Storm King himself should decide how to deal with him.”
When they returned to Duskendale two days later, the army camped outside the town’s walls had grown notably larger than what it had been when they left. Among the newcomers Barron spotted the banners of House Harlton, House Chyttering, House Cargyll and House Byrch. Riding into the camp, Barron was approached by Lord Armond Harlton.
“It is a pleasure to see you again, Prince Barron,” the balding river lord greeted him, looking tired and ungroomed.
“I see you’ve managed to muster a formidable number of troops for our cause,” Barron said approvingly. “Is Lyonel with you?”
The look in the Harlton lord’s eyes darkened slightly as he heard that name. “Lyonel remains in Castlewood, resting,” he answered with a sigh. “He returned from his mission to Stoney Sept, but so badly injured that I doubted he would survive even through the night. Thank the gods for Maester Bennis and his healing skills.”
Barron nodded and paused for a moment to take in a deep breath. “What did he learn in Stoney Sept?” he asked carefully.
“Perhaps we could discuss that more in my pavilion, my prince,” Armond suggested. “As it happens, I have a couple visitors there right now that you might recognize.”
Lord Armond led them to his large green-and-silver pavilion, and in there they found Queen Shana and Princess Arya waiting for them, as well as a tall and grey-haired man that Barron didn’t recognize.
“Uncle Barron, you’re back,” Princess Arya said with a smile, which for the first time in days brought a smile to Barron’s face as well.
“How did it go?” Queen Shana asked with a more serious tone.
“It’s been settled, Lord Staunton will join us,” Barron said with a thin smile remaining on his face as he took a seat. Then he turned his eyes to the grey-haired man, who now had a soft smile on his craggy and cleanshaven face with a strong jaw. He looked to be about the same age as Lord Armond and was dressed in red-and-gold quilted tunic with a black wool cloak donned over it.
“Prince Barron, it is an honor to meet you,” the man introduced himself with a deep and warm voice. “I am Lord Desmond Cargyll, the brother-in-law of our common friend Lord Armond. We have seen each other before, if only briefly, years ago after your brother had lifted the siege of Raventree.”
“Well, then it is a pleasure to meet again, Lord Cargyll,” Barron responded calmly and shook the man’s hand. “This time there is no Arlan to save the Riverlands, but I shall do my best in his stead,” the old prince promised, shifting his gaze then back to Lord Armond. “Now, I believe you wanted to tell me about Lyonel’s mission in Stoney Sept.”
“Indeed,” Armond confirmed with a sigh. “He learned that King Lucifer is to reinforce his alliance with House Harroway by wedding Lord Osmund’s daughter. And since then, a combined army of the Faith Militant and traitorous river lords has marched north along the western shores of the God’s Eye, Harroway no doubt being their destination.”
“How strong exactly is the enemy force?” Barron asked sternly.
“We’re not sure,” Desmond Cargyll chimed in with a calm tone. “But it seems the Smallwoods, Keaths, Vances of Atranta and Rygers have all joined King Lucifer’s cause. And if they’re gathering in Harroway, it most likely means they plan to take Trident Hall.”
“Trident Hall is held by my uncle, Lord Robert, right?” Shana asked with a hint of concern in her words.
“Aye,” Barron said with a sigh. “Robert is a warrior; he will not yield easily. And hopefully Lord Brydan can aid him as well, if our forces don’t make it there soon enough.”
Tense silence followed Barron’s words, a concerned expression on each of their faces. With a sigh the old prince shifted his gaze towards his niece. “Young Lady Emberlei returned to Duskendale with us,” he told her calmly. “She isn’t much older than you, I think you two might get along. Would you like to meet her?”
“I’d love to,” Arya answered softly, looking at her mother who nodded approvingly. And thus, they made their way from the camp to Dun Fort, where they found Lady Emberlei on the courtyard with her handmaidens. Barron and Shana watched from a distance as Princess Arya approached the girls.
“I believe you two should remain here, until the war has been won,” Barron said quietly. Shana turned her eyes to him, the look in them conflicted.
“I do not wish to put Arya in danger,” she admitted with a gulp. “However, I do not wish to delay either, I wish to be reunited with my little brother.”
“Brydan is the Lord of Raventree Hall and the Warden of Riverlands,” Barron calmly remarked. “He’ll be too preoccupied with fighting this war to have family reunions any time soon.”
“Precisely,” Shana responded with a saddened tone. “Soon he will ride to battle, just as father did sixteen years ago.”
“You fear that Brydan might not live to see the end of this war?” Barron asked with an empathetic tone, and with tears welling up in her eyes Shana nodded.
“I fear he might die thinking that his sisters have forgotten him.”