I am getting too old for this.
It was hardly a rare thought for Corlys Velaryon, he'd had the thought more often than not for something akin to the last twenty years. This was a particularly strong moment, for such an argument, however. The surprisingly spry man of almost sixty years rolled to avoid a blade meant for him, rising up to skewer the pirate along his own blade in turn. With a grunt that was more impatience than any real effort, he kicked his foe away, freeing his blade.
The war on the Stepstones had always been a gruelling, close fought, affair. Naval conflict was defined by a lot of waiting and then sudden bursts of visceral, inescapable violence. The winding claustrophobic nature of these rocky islands greatly increased the amount of the latter. Where on the open sea you might have hours of preparation, bombardments, opportunities to surrender or escape, among the Stepstones galleys could almost stumble into each other. A captain would rarely risk an engagement with a clearly superior ship or force, there was little room for survival once combat began, but here where the window was so small, it was fight or die. This did not even necessarily benefit the stronger party, a gruelling melee was a gruelling melee for both sides, as trapped men fought like demons for the slim chance they might prove successful enough to escape.
The Westerosi had one major advantage. They had a dragon. Not only did the dragon bring fire and death from on high, it gave them a scout like no other, even in the winding maze of small rocky islands, they could see when their enemy could not. But Daemon could not be everywhere. Unlike some of the Westerosi captains, Corlys had refused to grow accustomed to the advantage. Thank the Seven that he had not, for the Sea Snake was now entangled with a Myrish vessel of similar size, with no sign of support from the rest of Daemon's forces.
Corlys parried another strike from a new foe, the force shuddering through his arm. He could practically feel his bones creak, but still he pressed on, matching the Sellsword that had swung himself aboard the Sea Snake with a speed that many younger men would be envious of. Corlys Velaryon was dressed as a noble lord of the Seven Kingdoms, his armour, while deliberately lighter than a true set of plate, was heavily stylised in the imagery of his house. It was not his preference, but to the men of Westeros unaccustomed to the nobility looking 'alike' with the men, it gave them something to remain grounded with. The blade he used, likewise, possessed a hilt crafted in the form of two seahorses rampant, the blade as finely crafted as any not made from Valyrian steel. His appearance was undoubtedly noble, and that gave him the element of surprise when he fought like a sailor. His foe matched him blade strike for blade strike, but ultimately did not anticipate the punch to the stomach that staggered and winded him. Before the sellsword could recover, Corlys had buried his blade through the man's neck. The Lord of Tides heaved his foe overboard, down into the waters below. If they weren't there already, the infamous sharks of the Stepstones would shortly be among the froth surrounding the embattled vessels.
The crew of the Sea Snake was a varied bunch, to say the least. It always had been, that was the way Corlys had forged it, a variety of experiences and expertise, but now, more than ever, it was eclectic. The large ship carried a full contingent of Daemon's forces, drawn from Westeros mercenaries and nobility. They were equipped more for fighting on the islands themselves than aboard the ship, and while some had lightened their armour and arms, many had not. While he wouldn't expect much for their chances should they be cast overboard, the unusual stopping power of fully armoured knights at sea, was certainly giving the Myrish pause. More than Westerosi supported Daemon, or had been hired with the wealth of House Velaryon, however. Sellswords, sailors and pirates from across the known world filled Daemon's forces, and, as the de-facto flagship of his fleet, the Sea Snake housed many of them. Many of their commanders, even those with their own ships, were aboard this day, as the Sea Snake sought out one of the piratical strongholds still loyal to the Three Daughters. Each wanted a claim of the loot. Corlys would just be happy to see the day done.
When another Myrish sellsword cried out in his own tongue, swinging over to challenge Corlys, the older man could do little more than groan, readying his blade again.
"Come on then, before the Seven take me standing here."
Preparations were well underway for the latest of King Viserys great celebrations. No doubt yet another futile attempt to mend the building divide within the royal family, but it was an effort at least the smallfolk and traders of the city appreciated. King's Landing had grown prosperous and more populous than it had ever been under the current King's reign, but this was never more true than when a tournament of note was planned. A tent city, some might say almost as large as the permanent one, sprawled outside the city walls, extending well into the city's uneven hinterland. The inns and brothels that King's Landing was almost 'most' famous for were filled to capacity and then some. The stench of Flea Bottom was never worse, although the influx of traders in the cities richer quarters, bringing all sorts of exotic smells with them, almost counteracted it for the wealthier inhabitants.
The mood of the city was generally positive, although cramped confines, free-flowing alcohol and the promise of the violent spectacle of the tourney invariably lead to an uptake in violence and crime. If Daemon Targaryen had left King's Landing with one positive before his exile, it was the Goldcloaks, who were at least able to keep a semblance of order thanks for the efforts of the King's brother in turning them into something other than a laughing stock.
Violence among the peasantry was hardly the greatest fear of the gentry, however. Many had noted the growing rift among the royals. At first, an increasing number of noble houses had maintained manses within the city simply to benefit from the produce of a peaceful realm, and to seek the able, if jovial, King's favour. Now, more and more remained within the capital to seek favour with either side, knowing that, however this conflict might be resolved, being 'friends' with the winner would certainly secure some boon in the future. At least it brought greater wealth and attention to the tourney.