Book 2, Chapter 3 - Ours is the Fury Aug 9, 2020 3:41:33 GMT InGenNateKenny and TheNotChosenOne like this
Post by LiquidChicagoTed on Aug 9, 2020 3:41:33 GMT
It was clear that Iwan Bar Emmon had no desire to be here, to sit among men who considered him a traitor, rightfully so. It didn't take long for the hostile glares to visibly get to him and he left the table and the Great Hall even before dinner was served. Exchanging one glance with Edonia, Drent realized she was just as hungry as he was, but neither of them would sit with the other soldiers today.
As they left the Great Hall, Drent sent a silent prayer to the warrior, hoping and begging that Bar Emmon left the building solely to get some fresh air and not because he planned anything. And yet, Drent had to admit that all of this was strange. They were at war and yet, Orys Baratheon came to parley? Lord Buckler and his table of honour were located far from the long table where Drent and several dozen soldiers were seated, so he couldn't hear what they were discussing and yet, he knew from the old lord's expression that it was hardly pleasant. Bernard, Jonathan and Warrick were sitting by his side, as well as Emphryus Dresfel, while Orys Baratheon only had Quingar Qoherys by his side.
Targaryen's troops were outnumbered, disarmed and their commanding officer did not strike Drent as someone who would violate the guest right. But still, he couldn't shake off the feeling that something was about to happen. The guards out here clearly thought the same and a feeling of impending doom was looming over the entire castle.
Quietly, Edonia gave him a nudge, pointing into the distance, where Iwan Bar Emmon just climbed the stairs up to the walls. “Is he supposed to do that?”, she asked and Drent shrugged. “They aren't supposed to be here to begin with”, he spoke. “If Baratheon wanted to confuse his enemy, he sure as hell managed to do so” He narrowed his eyes. “Who's to say his men don't lead a much larger army past the walls, now that the lord of Bronzegate is preoccupied?”
“At best, he's just spying on us”, Edonia brought up. “This is a decent fortress and he'll see the same. Too decent for his army, I'm sure of it” Drent had to agree with this, but at the same time, it raised even more questions. If Baratheon's army couldn't even take Bronzegate, how were they intending to take all of the Stormlands? Sure, there were less impressive border castles, but he didn't choose them. He marched upon Bronzegate, but instead of seeking a fight, he was parleying, as if it wasn't too late for that already, with him serving a king who would never back down and them serving a king who would never yield.
They hastily made their way over the courtyard, as Drent tried to keep an eye on Bar Emmon. Though his dyed hair would make him stick out in broad daylight, it didn't help them much in the dark of the night and with only a few torches illuminating the wall, Drent could barely make out more than a rough shape. Somewhere behind these walls, he knew, Orys had his army. Perhaps not enough to take Bronzegate, but still more than sufficient to cause a lot of damage if the knight so desired.
“Shouldn't they be preparing for a siege?”, he mumbled, as they reached the walls. Though Bronzegate was an impressive fortress, especially for a house as comparably minor as Buckler, he noticed almost no heightened security. There were a few archers patrolling the walls and the four towers were most likely manned, but the gates, while closed, were not barred and many of the soldiers seemed to be off duty.
“Buckler strikes me as the honourable kind”, Edonia replied. “Talked to some of his men earlier. He's strict as hell, but he takes a man by his word. Baratheon is his guest and he'll respect that” She shrugged. “Besides, if they attack, they have to cross the surrounding plains and lay siege to the gates. More than enough time to cut down every Targaryen weasel in that hall. We outnumber them two to one in there. Five times that if you count the garrison out here. Baratheon struck me as neither traitor nor fool, so I think we're safe for now”
“From him, maybe”, Drent admitted. “But Bar Emmon betrayed the Storm King once already and I don't know what to think of that brute by Baratheon's side, that Qoherys” Edonia raised an eyebrow. “Funny name he got”, she replied. “Like the new maester, eh?” Drent gave her a nod. “And both are Valyrian. Family perhaps?”, he brought up.
“Aren't Maester's supposed to get rid of their last name?”, Edonia spoke as they reached the stairs. “At the same time, not our place to wonder, is it? The king trusts him” Drent chuckled. “And since when do you trust the king?”, he asked in return. “When we first met you served him only so that Torrence wouldn't get himself killed”
Edonia rolled her eyes. “I never said I don't trust the king”, she spoke, though her tone made it clear that she thought just that. “But I do trust the princess. She keeps the maester around, so he can't be too shady” Drent's smile faded slowly as he thought back to Storm's End. He couldn't say that he shared Edonia's confidence and the thought of Argella putting her trust in a man who didn't deserve it was hard to stomach. If he could be there, he could keep an eye out for Maester Qoherys. Instead, he was at the other end of the kingdom, preparing for a war no one in their right mind could ever want.
Before he could reply, they had reached the top of the wall. During the day, Drent could only imagine the view over the wide plains that surrounded Bronzegate. It overlooked the main road into the Riverlands and the one Aegon absolutely had to take if he ever intended to march on Storm's End. Right now, nothing could be seen of the army that was supposed to camp in view of their walls. No torches in the darkness, no sound echoed over the plains.
And yet, Iwan Bar Emmon was staring into the night. He saw them coming, of course, it was a quiet night and even their steps carried far. The knight was silently leaning onto the wall, merely glancing at them as they reached the top of the stairs. “You're following me”, he growled. His tone was calm, not even accusatory, though perhaps mildly frustrated.
“You're awfully far away from the Great Hall, Ser”, Edonia replied. “We're here to escort you back, in case you forgot the way” Iwan fully turned towards them now and though he was unarmed, his body language was almost threatening. “Can't a man get some fresh air in peace?”, he asked, to which Drent shook his head. “Not if he's in a kingdom whose king he betrayed”, he spoke and he was cut off by Iwan's cold chuckle.
“Is that what you think I did?”, he snarled. “The way I see it, my house is ever loyal to the true king of these lands. In just a few years, Aegon Targaryen has been ten times the ruler your Storm King has ever been. He kept us safe when pirates from the Stepstones threatened our lands. He sent aid when a savage storm devastated our coastline. Argilac the Arrogant meanwhile, he was busy fighting a pointless war over the Mountains of Dorne” He clenched his fists. “All he does is waging war and demanding that all of his subjects bleed themselves dry to finance it”
“And what is it you're doing now?”, Edonia asked. “Seems awfully like fighting a war for me” Iwan shook his head. “Not if Ser Orys has it his way”, he mumbled. “And the way I see it, it's better to have one last war to end them all than to continue like this. Durrandon against Martell, Lannister against Hoare, stags and lions and wolves locked in bloodshed since the Age of Heroes. Without Aegon, that's how it's going to be until there's no one left to fight anymore”
Drent narrowed his eyes, though he actually came closer, resting his arms on the stone next to Bar Emmon. “And what if he fails?”, he asked. “He drags all of Westeros into the largest war any of us have ever seen. Hundreds of Thousands are going to die and it might be all for nothing in the end. How does one petty lord hope to win against seven kingdoms?”
“You haven't seen them, have you?”, Iwan asked and his voice was quiet now, almost a whisper. There was reverence in it, respect and a hint of fear. “Fire and blood are their words and fire and blood is what they bring with them. Wings that could cover this entire courtyard, a hide harder than these walls and a breath hotter than the sun above Dorne. My father has knelt to King Aegon even before I ever saw them, but the moment I laid eyes upon Balerion, I knew there was wisdom in his choice” He turned to the two soldiers. “Aegon's playing an entirely different game, one the kings of these lands simply cannot win”, he told them. “I pray they realize it sooner rather than later”
Just thinking about Iwan's words made his skin crawl. Lord Buckler had two hundred archers in his castle, but if the reports were true, Lord Darklyn had more than twice that many and none of them managed to even wound the beast before it burned them. In Storm's End, they had larger weapons, ballistae meant to shred enemy fleets, but no one had ever tried them against a dragon, because no dragon had ever been to Westeros. Without his beasts, Aegon stood no chance, but with them... who knew? “And your Lord Orys wants to preach the same wisdom to the border lords, turn them against their king”, he replied. “All so that Aegon's army of traitors and monsters ever grows”
“I want no such thing”, the voice of Orys Baratheon spoke up and Drent flinched at the unexpected sound. He had heard footsteps up the stairs, but turned around only now, to see none other than Aegon's famed general walking up the stairs. He had his hands raised to show his good intentions, but Drent couldn't help but reach for his sword, almost instinctively. “What are you doing here?”, he growled and though both men were unarmed, he and Edonia no longer outnumbered them.
“There's no need for that”, Orys assured him. “I saw you following poor Iwan and had to excuse myself to free him” Beneath his beard, he had a calm smile, though his gaze was hard and determined. “If you must know, I don't ask anyone to switch sides, I know fully well that pride and honour forbid such a thing”, he explained. “I merely advocate for neutrality. I've seen Balerion unleashed just a few weeks ago and I hope to spare you such a fate”
“That's one way to win the war, alright”, Drent agreed. “Just convince Argilac's bannermen to stand aside until the king has no one left to fight for” He narrowed his eyes. “That won't work, you know. They're as stubborn as their king, especially in these parts of the kingdom. You talk a big game, but if your king could truly kill us all with such ease, then he would have done so already”, he added and a slight smirk formed on his face. “He doesn't know how well his dragons will fare against the Seven Kingdoms either, does he? No one knows, so he's cautious”
Orys raised an eyebrow, before he gave him a nod. “Sharp for a common soldier”, he complimented him. “Don't I know you?” Drent gave him a nod. “We've met in Raylansfair. Name's Drent Golton”, he revealed and Orys seemed to recognize him at last. “The Storm Princess' soldier”, he stated. “The circumstances could be better, but it's good to see you again”
“Likewise”, Drent pressed through his teeth and his words lacked the genuine tone Orys' voice carried with it. “We may be enemies now, but I won't forget what you've done for her back then” Orys sighed as he leant onto the wall next to Drent, who was now flanked by him and Bar Emmon. Edonia remained in the background, her eyes narrowed, watching the men carefully for any sign of treachery.
“I hope we don't have to be enemies for long”, Orys replied. “I'm ready to fight and kill whomever my king orders me to, but I'd much prefer us to work for the same goal” Drent chuckled dryly. “Isn't it a bit too late for that, Ser?”, he asked, though he listened carefully. He was loyal to the king and he would remain so no matter the cost. If for nothing else, then for Argella's sake. And yet, like most of his comrades he preferred times of peace and they had been preciously rare lately.
“It's true that King Argilac has burned that bridge when he mutilated Corilyan Celtigar”, Orys admitted. “He provoked a war he cannot win. All that is left to hope for is that he won't drag this entire kingdom down with him. If he yields now, King Aegon might even allow the princess to remain Lady of Storm's End”
“I heard he promised the castle to you, as well as the entire kingdom if you conquer it for him”, Edonia replied. “I wonder, will it come with the princess, or without?” Orys grimaced at her words, though he avoided Drent's inquisitive glare. “Would you believe me if I tell you I'd rather not rule these lands?”, he asked, as he stared into the darkness. Drent raised an eyebrow, before he shook his head. “Yeah, I don't believe that”, he spat. “Your king offers you the greatest price in this entire war and you don't want it? No man would say no to that” He tensed up. “To the kingdom, I mean”
Orys raised an eyebrow, though his mouth formed a good-natured smirk. “Is it really that hard to believe? All I am, I am thanks to Aegon Targaryen and to serve him is an honour beyond any worldly riches he could bestow upon me”,he clarified. “He promised me these lands, it's true, but I'm a soldier first and foremost. I might be a good leader when it comes to war, but that doesn't make me a good ruler in times of peace”
Drent gave him a curious glance. What the knight said made a degree of sense, but still, he hardly expected such words from Aegon's general. “So that's why you don't want to pillage these lands”, he mumbled. “You're afraid your king forces you to ruin over them regardless of your own wishes, in which case you'd have to rule over a land that hates you on top of all the other problems that might arise in the years to come”
Now, Orys' mouth tightened. “I'm hardly afraid, Drent Golton”, he growled. “But if given the choice, I'd prefer for a lady of Durran's blood to rule over these lands. She cares for the Stormlands and for its people, whereas I'm nothing but a stranger to you. I doubt that'd ever change, even if Aegon makes me Lord of Storm's End. Aegon is my brother in arms and I would rather remain by his side until it snows in Dorne”
“I get what you mean”, Edonia admitted and Drent shot her a glare. “Whose side are you on, Bernile?”, he hissed quietly and Orys chuckled. “You're an honest man, Golton”, he complimented him. “I respect that. Same goes for Lord Buckler. Honest, stalwart and unyielding. I've tried to explain to him what would happen should he refuse to bend the knee and yet, he is willing to die for his king”
“Would it be any different if he were to ask you to break your oath to your king?”, he asked and Orys' smile grew thinner. “No, I suppose it wouldn't”, he admitted. “I hoped the Storm Lords would be more pragmatic than me. But even then, I must admit I am impressed by Lord Buckler's sense of duty” Drent nodded slightly, though out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Edonia flinching slightly. “What was that?”, the woman mumbled, as she glanced behind her back, into the courtyard.
“What?”, he asked and she turned back to them. “You still didn't tell us what you were doing out here, Ser Iwan”, she spoke and Bar Emmon shrugged. “Nor do I have to, woman”, he growled. “I am your guest, not your prisoner and if Lord Buckler doesn't want me to leave his hall, then he can damn well say so himself”
To Drent's surprise, Edonia placed a hand on the hilt of her sword and while she did not draw steel, she was tensed up. “What are you doing here”, she asked again. “Answer me or I shall cut you down where you stand” Drent looked from her to Bar Emmon and it took him only a second to step between them. “Edonia, what is going on?”, he asked. “There's no need to threaten him”
Edonia gulped. “You didn't hear that, did you?”, she asked. “Sergeant Montclair always said I got good hearing. She glanced over her shoulder again, just briefly, before focussing back on Iwan and Orys. “The far gate has just been opened” As soon as she said this, Drent indeed heard something, but not something as quiet as a gate being opened at the other end of the courtyard, but something much louder and much more dreadful in nature. A cacophony of horns, from the far side of the wall and from beyond.
“What the...”, Orys began as Drent and Edonia both drew their swords. Without hesitation, he pointed the sword at Baratheon, the steel almost touching the knight's neck, while Edonia pointed her weapon at Bar Emmon. “You claim to have come in peace, bait Lord Buckler into believing you and then you infiltrate the gatehouse to let the rest of your army in”, she spat. “What a noble knight you are!”
Orys seemed actually shocked, not just by her accusation, but by the sounds that reached their ears. The Targaryen force was attacking and if Edonia was right, someone had sabotaged the far gate. Drent barely dared to look away from him, for fear that the knight would make his move. He had seen him fight in Raylansfair and he knew that Orys Baratheon outclassed him in all but one thing, namely the fact that he was unarmed.
“I had nothing to do with that!”, he protested and his voice was shivering in outrage. There was an almost uncharacteristic anger within his eyes as he stared right past Drent, into the courtyard. “You expect us to believe that?”, Edonia hissed in return and Orys shook his head, as much as Drent's sword allowed him to. “You truly think me capable of that?”, he replied. “The laws of hospitality are sacred”
“Then what was your man doing out here right before your army launches an attack?”, Drent asked and Orys raised an eyebrow. “That's... a good question”, he admitted. “Iwan?” Bar Emmon let out a notable sigh. “I... had a suspicion something would happen”, he revealed. “I had no part in this, but... Quingar. I was coming out here, hoping to stop whatever he had planned”
Orys closed his eyes. “Of course...”, he growled. “Were it up to me, that madman would have been left at the Aegonsfort. Why didn't you tell me?” Iwan smirked coldly. “Because, with all due respect, you think too highly of your fellow men. The only safe way of preventing this would have been to arrest him and I cannot see you arresting a highborn knight on mere suspicions alone”
“You really claim you knew nothing about this?”, Drent hissed and Orys gave him a slight nod. The knight seemed genuinely shocked and truth be told, so was Drent. It was as Baratheon had said, the laws of hospitality were sacred. It took a special sort of man to break them and the Targaryen knight indeed had a reputation to uphold. Though he had every reason to hate House Durrandon, he had protected the princess in Raylansfair. Perhaps Drent owed him at least enough to believe him this time.
“Quingar has always been unhinged”, he spoke and already, the sound of battle reached their ears, steel clashing against steel, men screaming as their life left them. If the gates were truly breached, then the Targaryen force would be on equal footing with Buckler's army and they had the element of surprise on their side. “But this... this is low, even for him...” He glanced at Iwan. “You could have told me!”, he growled.
Slowly, Iwan shook his head. “No, Ser, I really don't think I could have”, he replied. “As I said, I had no proof, just suspicions. I saw Quingar speaking to the captains, sneaking away at night. I knew he was hiding something, but had I approached you about it, he would have gotten rid of the evidence. I just... didn't expect of him to be this straightforward” He sighed. “I knew you needed proof and I intended to get you just that before these two stopped me”
“You could have told me”, Orys insisted, before he narrowed his eyes. “Drent, I know you have no reason to trust me, but still... lower your weapon. I don't know what lies Quingar told the men, but they are still my soldiers, doing what they believe to be my orders. I can end this before Quingar's actions bring even greater shame upon my king. Men have died already for this and more will meet their end before this is over, but I refuse to take a castle like this”
“He's the enemy”, Edonia warned him in a low tone. “And his men have breached the castle already. Lock him up and we have leverage. This Quingar sounds like a proper madman, but the rest of the soldiers shouldn't be so willing to sacrifice their leader if we have him at swordpoint. Sounds safer that way”
Orys sighed. “Whatever you decide to do with us, I will go along with it”, he promised. “I had good intentions coming here and what Quingar did cannot be excused. For that, I'll take responsibility. You may take me hostage to force my men to surrender, but that won't work on Quingar. But work with me and I will take care of him, personally”
[Arrest Orys and Iwan] [Work with them to stop Quingar]