Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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The Stepstones

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."

King's Landing

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.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Kingfisher
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Where tides crash, and thunder strike,
On isles of iron, and halls of Pyke.
Her knives did cut, and whips did crack.
The witch with heart and tooth of black.

Stormdrinker had more than earned its name, tearing through thundering waves, and smashing into enemy galleys.

Yadira felt at home aboard her ship, with her feet firmly planted on a deck which was friendly and familiar to her.

On the Lord of the Tides’ Seasnake? Not so much.

Not that she really had the luxury to stand about and complain.

A lithe man with olive skin, and long, dark hair stood opposite Yadira, a curved blade clutched tightly in one hand. The blade’s hilt had a polished gemstone encrusted in it.

“That's a very pretty sword,” Yadira said, fairly certain that the sellsword couldn’t understand her “how much do you think I’ll get for it?”

In her own clutches, Yadira gripped her hand axe, Drownedfang.

The Myrish man let out some guttural cry, sprinting towards Yadira, as battle raged around them.

All across the deck of the Seasnake, steel clattered against steel.

A people’s love, and family scorned,
A soul, with cruelest will adorned.
No care or mirth and joy to guise,
Darkness burnt, behind her eyes.

Yadira Blacktooth, exiled daughter of House Greyjoy, had found herself fighting beneath House Velaryon, when the search for able bodies found its way to the cities of harpies and pyramids.

She served no master other than herself, yet the promise of gold and power was enough to sway the young woman and her corsairs into pledging their allegiance to Daemon’s forces.

For now, at least.

The sellsword came barreling down on Yadira with a furious swoop of his blade, which she caught with the sharp of Drownedfang. The man was taller, but what the Blacktooth lacked in height, she more than made up for in bulk.

Fuelled by raw mass, Yadira drove the sellsword across the deck, sending him floundering backwards.

Her training in the fighting pits of Meereen served the young woman well when shedding blood in such unconventional quarters, and in armour so light. Even if she hadn’t been taught the ways of pit fighting, Yadira had grown up as a reaver and a pillager, with sea salt in her veins. The Seasnake might not be Stormdrinker, but the young woman was in her element when battling at sea, and she wielded her hand axe with the savage fury that only a true Ironborn could muster.

Yadira pulled Drownedfang free from swordlock, aiming a vicious swing at the sellsword’s chest, but the myrish man was quick enough to regain his balance, parry the swooping hand axe, and swat the Blacktooth’s strike away.

The swellsword hissed something in his queer tongue, lunging for Yadira the with pointed tip of his blade.

Yadira sidestepped the thrust, grabbing the man by his limber wrist, as he stumbled into the space where she had stood, mere moments ago. The young woman yanked - hard -, throwing the sellsword off of his feet, and forcing him to his knees.

It all happened so quickly that the sellsword barely had time to yelp, before Drownedfang tore into his throat, exploding in a burst of dark red gore.

Blood splattered across Yadira’s face, and she pulled her hand axe free from its bloody new scabbard, leaving the crumpled form of the myrish sellsword to bleed out on the deck of the Seasnake.

“WHO WANTS SOME, THEN?!” Yadira cackled her challenge to the attacking Myrish, dark red soaking her body, and a grin smeared across her lips.

Rage and hate and blood to feast,
Quench the lust of foulest beast.
Cut and carve and cleave, and hack.
The witch with heart and tooth of black.

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by smarty0114
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As the song of steel rang out around her, as men lunged, and parried, and died, Sara Snow paused and took a deep breath. Blood and death and seawater assailed her nose, but a moment later, there was another assailant to worry about. A man was charging her from behind, his oafish footsteps revealing his position, even amongst the clashes of swords, and screams of dying men. The Bloody Wolf waited, feigning ignorance, and bent over at the last moment, sending the pirate careening over her back, leaving him sprawled on the deck in front of her. Her sword found it’s way through his throat quickly enough, and then it was on to the next.

Sara had come a long way from Winterfell, though in truth that had never been her home. She’d found her home on the battlefield, amidst blood smoke. She’d never felt more alive than with a sword in her hand and an enemy staring her down. That lust for battle had led her across Essos, and finally, to the court of Daemon Targaryen. His violet eyes and platinum hair had enamored her, his dragon had amazed her, and his riches had bought her and her men. Today though, she saw no sign of Daemon, or his beast. This was their fight to win, and theirs alone it seemed.

Blood ran across the deck of the Sea Snake, so much blood. She shook her dark hair away from her face, and began adding to it, cutting down another pirate with her shortsword, bashing another with her shield. The second pirate stumbled, but kept his feet under him, and returned her attack with his curved sword, bringing it down just as she raised her shield to block the attack. He was quick though, and came at him with a swipe from the right, which she parried with her sword. She jumped back, putting some distance between her and the pirate. He was good, she’d give him that. She beat her sword against her shield, a challenge that the pirate took, charging her, raising his sword, and then stopping suddenly as she drove her own sword through his chest. Laughing, she pulled her sword out, and watched him drop to the deck, another lifeless body that would soon feed the sharks.

The Bloody Wolf fought on, slashing through foes as they charged her, blocking furious strikes with her shield. Blood coated the boiled leather vest she wore, and it had soaked into the sleeves of her tunic, staining the once blue fabric a dark purple. Her hair was sticking to the back of her neck now, matted together with sweat and dried blood. She might have worn a helm, but out on the sea she couldn’t afford to lose her peripheral vision. This battle would continue, until their enemies were dead, until they had their prize, until Daemon had pushed the forces of the Three Daughters out of the Stepstones. Until that moment came, she fought on.

The great city of King’s Landing had been in view for miles, yet Ellard Stark could not seem to take his eyes off it. The Stark host had been travelling for nearly two months now, and Ellard was anxious to arrive. He’d made this journey once before, for the coronation of King Viserys, but that had been almost a decade ago, and he’d grown older since then. His bones ached, he grew weary, and most of all, his ass hurt.

Ellard had not intended on traveling south for the tourney. He preferred the North, and he shared his father’s distaste for the Targaryens, and so he avoided the capital. Bennard had convinced him to join Cregan for the tourney, and so he blamed him for his aches. He’d heard of the growing rift amongst the royal family, but it was Bennard who’d noted that a rift in the Targaryen dynasty, meant opportunities for the Starks. He was well aware that Cregan remained unwed, and now would be as good a time as any to negotiate a marriage with a prominent house. It might be custom to wed within the North, as he himself had, but Bennard insisted that the realm hung in a precarious balance, and strong allies would be the best sort of protection in the times to come. Ellard had protested, but Bennard had eventually won him over, and thus he ventured south, into the snake pit that was King’s Landing. Bennard of course, got to stay behind as Castellan, the lucky bastard. Arrana stayed in Winterfell as well, overcome with a sudden fever before their departure. Longing, for his wife, and for his home, pierced his heart. With any luck, this trip would be a short one.

As the procession approached the Dragon Gate, Cregan trotted up beside him, astride his dark brown palfrey. His squire, Jon Umber, a boy of six and ten years and Cregan’s cousin, was not far behind, and soon came to ride beside him. Cregan had taken the boy on as a squire at his mother’s insistence, but the two had grown close over the past two years. He’d proven himself as good a squire as he could, considering his son had never seen a real battle. His son was ferocious in melees, but aside from the occasional outlaw in the North, he had yet to taste a true battle. He hoped the day never came that he would, but those were green dreams, for green boys. Ellard knew as well as any man, the inevitability of war.

Cregan smiled jovially at Ellard, who remained steely as ever. “Smile, Father. Our journey is almost at an end, and then we shall be awash in all that King’s Landing has to offer,” he said, earning a hearty laugh from Jon. Ellard kept his eyes focused ahead of them, watching the Dragon Gate rise for the van. “All that King’s Landing has to offer is vipers wearing the skin of men. I’ll smile when this wretched city is to our backs,” Ellard replied. Despite the noticeable lack of humor in his voice, his son laughed. “What is a viper to a wolf?” he said.

“Venom kills wolves just as it does men, and no matter our sigil, we are still men. You would be wise to remember that. This was a dangerous city when I last came, and if what Bennard says is true, it’s only become more so.”

“All this worrying will send you to an early grave Father. This is a celebration, we should treat it as such.”

Ellard remained silent at that. This was no simple celebration. They would be coming to court at a time when it was dangerously divided. Viserys may have named Rhaenyra his heir, shortly before his brother’s exile, but that had become a point of contention in the past few years. The young prince Aegon had a better claim to the throne, if the precedent set by the Great Council was anything to go off of. They would have to be wary of any outward displays of support. Ellard had no desire to choose sides. Issues of succession had a long history of tearing realms and houses asunder, and he did not intend to see the Starks fall into ruin.

He’d be lying if he said he was not struck by the opulence of the city as they passed through it’s gates. The Red Keep soared high into the sky, and everywhere he looked commoners were raucous with celebration. Spirits were clearly high in the streets, and Cregan had taken notice. “See, Father? Even the common folk are celebrating!” he jested, before riding ahead, taking the young Umber with him. Ellard kept his pace, remaining in the center of the procession. He would arrive when he arrived. Until then, he would enjoy this fleeting moment of solace, likely one of the last he’d have for the next few weeks. There were no moments alone in King’s Landing, not truly.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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New Ghis, 110 AC

The palace's 'War Room' was a fairly large chamber of wood and brick, with thinner and narrower windows than the norm in order to ensure safety from darts and arrows. This would have made the heat sweltering if not for pipes that carrried cool water to underneath the floor - A marvel made by a privileged Myrish slave, one who now commanded slaves of his own despite his own lack of freedom.

King Grazdan the Chainbringer busied himself over preperations - Food had to be supplied, weapons forged, and armor and shields repaired for his gamble. And indeed, it was a gamble. Raising two Legions' worth of troops, including a hundred Unsullied. Getting Astapor's good offices long enough to let his army through their territory to Yunkai - His sister and her husband were useful for that purpose, but not a game-winner. And finally, actually taking Yunkai by land and by sea, with a significant portion of New Ghis' fleet being sent to arrive at the enemy's capital in order to tighten the upcoming siege with a blockade.

But the real battle will begin once the Astapori realize that his armies had no intention of departing, once a new Military Governor had been installed over the people of Yunkai. For the Good Masters of Astapor were not all willing to agree on reunifying the Ghiscari Empire - Independence was a metaphorical nacrotic.

As King Grazdan sat in conference with his generals - He had insisted on the presence of scholar-slaves in this 'war room', so as to emphasize the importance of logistics, he can tell that a few were getting bored with discussing matters of supply and just wanted to march to Yunkai already.

Well, they'd get their chance. As the King read a scholar-slave's memorandum about the state of the siege engines to be brought to the coming siege of Yunkai, he noticed one of his generals being less bored than the rest - Perhaps even alert. Good old Draknoz mo Rarahl, it seemed that his long-postponed promotion was for the best.

Once the discussion was done, King Grazdan said in a firm tone, "Then it is settled. We will go through Astapor, giving gifts to the Good Masters beforehand to let us through and with our diplomats instructed to give our reasons for marching on Yunkai as 'disposing of a competitor. A large detachment of our fleet will, at the same time, sail northwest, then northeast, to blockade Yunkai. The land forces will number two Legions - a total of 12,000 men, while the fleet will contain another legion of 6000 alongside the overseers assigned to keep the galley slaves in line. The army we will send over land will have a large siege train to construct catapults, ballistae, and even one trebuchet."

He paused, "Because Draknoz mo Rarahl, though a veteran of our wars, did not get bored by the discussion and the speech, he is to be put in overall command of the expedition - His word will carry the same weight as mine. Will anyone disagree with me? If so, speak up, please."

The sudden sharp edge in his tone reminded everyone just why he was their King - The reason was not just hereditary right. The scholar-slaves paused, even as the generals broke out into a sweat, especially the ones that were previously the most bored. Draknoz mo Rarahl, a middle-aged man whose prematurely graying hair marked years of fighting other commanders' battles for them, laughed and said, "My King, as gratitude for your trust in me, I promise you this - Yunkai will fall in less than five years!"
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Jorick
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Lord Confessor Rhaegel Waters

Pained moans and sobbing voices begging for mercy filled the lower chambers of the Red Keep's dungeons. These sounds were almost always present, but these days there were oh so many more criminals and malcontents for the royal confessors to soften up with their tender attentions. Lord Rhaegel Waters stood before one such man, a filthy old fellow who'd been left in the cramped chamber for the better part of a day with his wrists chained to a ring in the ceiling. There was just enough slack for him to stand on the front half of his feet, though the damp stone smoothed over by countless prisoners before him certainly didn't provide a steady enough footing to make it comfortable. The prisoner's outbursts had already been reduced from indignant denials to panicked pleas and finally to hopeless sobbing, and yet Rhaegel hadn't even begun to hurt him. Those of weaker constitutions could often be broken by the mere promise of pain to come, and he reveled in bringing them to that point of absolute surrender.

"I have a question for you." Rhaegel's soft and almost sympathetic words were enough to make the prisoner choke back his sobs and look up. Fear filled his eyes, and they couldn't stay still on the Lord Confessor now that the man had looked up from the floor; they flitted back and forth from the torturer to the small table covered in tools as if the man could not decide which was more worthy of his fear. "Yes, they do exactly what you'd think. Worse than that, unless you're particularly imaginative. I'll only ask the question once before we begin, and if I suspect even a hint of a lie..." Rhaegel trailed off, picking up an outlandishly complex implement from the table. A multitude of metal arms branched off from a the end of a wooden handle, curving out and then in to almost meet at a point about a forearm's length from the handle, each one ending in a barbed hook or a jagged spike or similar nasty-looking embellishments. It was almost useless in the work of causing pain, but the prisoner stared at it with wide eyes as his breathing quickened to hasty pants. A knife would do more damage than the unwieldy implement, but the order to the blacksmith had asked for something that looked like it came straight from a nightmare and that was exactly what had been delivered. A fearful mind could conjure tortures that even the most skilled confessor could not put into practice without outright killing the subject, and the prisoner's whimpers made it clear that he was quite capable of such vivid thoughts.

Rhaegel smiled at the man, letting loose a glimmer of the sadistic pleasure he would take in pulling this mans entrails out slowly and wrapping them around his neck. "I see you understand. Now, answer me truly: what did you do with the stolen gold?" The prisoner opened his mouth and words spilled out quicker than blood ever could, dribbling spittle and secrets down his chin with all the panic of a man facing his certain demise. Rhaegel kept the smile on his face as he listened, enjoying the product of his work as others might admire a fine painting or tapestry. There was art in suffering, after all. It just took a particular kind of genius to see it.

The lords and ladies in the Red Keep gave Rhaegel a wide berth as he strolled back toward the dungeons. He'd taken the time out of his busy schedule to send word to the City Watch, the names of all three accomplices that the cowardly old man had provided, and it was a rather auspicious start to the day. There was another fellow in need of help loosening his tongue, a man who owed a lot of people a lot of money, and it was time for his debt to the Iron Throne to be paid whether by coin or by blood. It was always strange, seeing the nobility of the court so disturbed by the Lord Confessor walking by with a smile on his face, but Rhaegel supposed it had to do with the primal fear that they might just be the next person to cause him to hurry to the dungeons like another man might race to the brothel after a long week. Worrying about the opinions of inferior people, no matter the supposed superiority conferred by their lineages, was not something he'd wasted time on in many years.

A lady let out a strangled scream as the Lord Confessor rounded a corner and passed her by, but the man himself paid it no mind. Word would spread about the manic cast of his face, the grin and the burning eyes, but he would not let that slow him down either. There was so much work to do, after all, and he was so very eager to do it.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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Draknoz mo Rarahl - The Road to Yunkai

"You may pass," said the Astapori commander in charge of their southern border's defenses. "Yunkai is as much our enemy as they are yours'."

Despite the honeyed words, Draknoz mo Rarahl, General of the army sent to take Yunkai, knew that the Astapori were getting suspicious of his intentions, which made it more imperative that he get through their territory as soon as possible. Despite the Astapori military being small, Draknoz did not want to fight the Unsullied in the mountain passses leading to their territory - Even in the plains beyond, the Unsullied were terrifying. There will be time to deal with them once Yunkai was completely taken.

There were no incidents in the first weeks of the march. Provisions were brought out in each Astapori village, to be bought at a fair price, while still more were brought in from the south. Every time they made camp, Draknoz made sure that the troops trained and drilled for two hours before they were given time to eat and sleep - Then in the mornings, the men were allowed to amuse themselves with bed slaves and eat a quick breakfast, before the march began again. But it was clear that the Astapori were shadowing the larger force with cavalry and camelry, waiting for this army to depart from their lands.

As the march continued, Draknoz's feeling of resentment towards the weakness of the Astapori grew - Were the Unsullied thier only point of pride? Why did they cling on to their independence, when the unity of the Ghiscari and the revival of their Empire was more important? He couldn't wait to reach Yunkai's territory, to begin the raiding and pillaging that all strong men were entitled to. Even with the strange orders given by the King to enslave those who were free and free those enslaved if they pledged alleginace to him - Draknoz was probably one of the few people who saw the practical dimension in the King's orders...

King Grazdan the Chainbringer - New Ghis

King Grazdan oversaw the departure of the fleet sent to blockade Yunkai, all the while thinking about his household matters. He regarded himself lucky that he was the dominant figure in his own court, that no one, not even his own children by his wives, concubines, and lowborn women were able to even conceive of going against him. He had cemented a reputation for brutality long before, a requirement to present a strong front. However, such brutality had to be tempered with reason - meaningless brutality will just alienate his supporters and leave opponents with nothing to lose. That cannot be allowed.

As he looked at the docks of New Ghis, his Queen, Dizmano Zhao, walked beside him. A beautiful woman he had married for political reasons, Dizmano was one of the few people he regarded with any softness. As she leaned against him affectionately, the King patted her oiled and curled hair, before saying, "My Queen, I long for the day I can call you Empress."

She smiled, her smooth brown face free of even the slightest blemish. "Our sons and daugthers will be heirs of the true glory of the Ghiscari. You will conquer Slaver's Bay for them, and they will conquer the World as your legacy."
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Lizzie Grafton never said a word. She never had to; her big brown eyes were reddish auburn in the bright sunlit glow streaming in from the open windows. Alyssa felt as if she could see every thought and emotion in her friend based purely on the inflection of light in her eyes and the subtle changes in facial expression throughout the procession of guests to the meal being served. It was just supposed to be a quick thing. Informal, even, and then Lady Myriah heard about it. The moment Lady Myriah heard about it the event was blown up and apart. Instead of happenning at a reasonable location like, say, Stone or Snow, the elder matriarch of House Waxley suggested it be held at the Eyrie.

The very nature of the place compared to stone halls like Snow and Stone.

Alyssa wasn't telling Lady Myriah no over something so small and simple. Myranda's lady mother would get what she wanted, and Alyssa would tell herself that it was for the best: Lady Myriah was probably right anyway. That or she was trying to fuck Uncle Emmon. But was she trying to get him for the first time? For the latest time? That was where her mind was as she waited. Behind her came the voice she knew wouldn't be far behind.

It was the sweet tone of Lady Myranda Waxley. "Why are you staring? Is my mother being weird with your Lord Emmon again?" Alyssa turned and smiled at Myranda, the girl was all dark features and darker long wavy hair. Her skin was smooth, darker than Lizzie's but only because it was just now spring. The Graftons typically got darker toned, whereas Alyssa was secure in her milk white skin that was going to sky milk head. Unless she burned it. Then it would get pink and angry and peel.

"I'm observing Myri."

Ah, she saw Myranda remember the idea. That's what you do when you're doing that smarter than the Maesters thing you do. Was how Myranda had put it earlier, and it wasn't a completely bad way to try to explain it, especially if you were looking for simplicity. No; Lady Myranda Waxley wasn't a bookish young lady, but she was pretty, boys and men alike just stared at her chest, she was sweet, and she tried really hard.

She was also an amazing friend.

Lizzie chuckled but kept her eyes on the procession. "He's here."

"How's he look?" Alyssa couldn't risk a dramatic turn of her head and attention. Not in front of so many eyes.

Lady Eliza Grafton was her cousin, and maybe closest friend. They didn't have all the same interests, and Lizzie had never been quite as good at numbers and angles as Alyssa was, but they had received very similar educations. They had spent most of their days together since their earliest days. Lizzie wasn't dumb. She wasn't slow. And she knew what to look for, "He looks like he just saw an army he didn't know existed down below the Eyrie on his way up."

"Just how we like our visitors."

Her smile increased, but it wasn't just at the news of Lord Strong's appearance. She smiled at Ser Ronnel from across the grand hall of the Eyrie. He looked unsettled, like he'd rather be on the march. The room smelled of lavender and sage, every candle in the hall was a scented candle, one of the two scents. The garden keepers of the Eyrie had yet to move out several small trees and other larger plants from storing them inside the Eyrie walls during the worst of winter. They had simply removed the linens over them and lined the walls with them. Candles and green plants and the light shimmering off the famed marble of the Eyrie.

A small three minstrel group played quietly, tucked away. The tables were already dressed and awaiting the first course, although wine was already flowing. Myranda had her cup, Alyssa sipped on some, Lizzie had half a cup. All three of them slowly made their way to the raised dais where Lord Emmon was seated with Lady Myriah. Lord Waxley was still at Wickenden. Alyssa took her seat in the center, Lord Emmon to her right, to her left Ladies Eliza and Myranda.

To her immediate left, however, was the open chair and the young Lord behind it. His twisted leg, his pained smile. Larys Strong was already looking road worn but lordly as the Gods would allow him, Seven bless him. "A seat of honor and a standing army guarding the door: Lady Arryn everything they've said about you is ignorance."

Somehow nervous tension got turned into...charm? It was hedge magic, a trick of some kind, or Larys Strong was much smarter than anyone had given him credit before. The bait laid before Alyssa proved too tempting. "Oh?" Up went her voice, curiousity getting the better of her, or at least she was playing at it. Her humor was always so dry, her persona so distant, it was infinitely difficult to tell with Alyssa Arryn.

Part of that was just self defense.

"You're a girl, a sweet one, maybe even a smart one, but still just a young girl."

Alyssa Arryn's sky blue eyes rolled over the marble hall in it's glowing, scented, warmth as the first round of dishes began to roll in: the lemon cakes frosted in sugar, berries and sweet cream, the sweetbreads--all personal favorites among some of the other dishes like the snails in honey and garlic, the chickens, although the salad did look good from where she was sitting...her focus went from that to her wine cup, to her lips on the cup, to the drink, to placing the cup back.

Staying in every moment allowed the thoughts to clear. Better to return to such words as Larys had relayed after a moment than to react to them fresh. "At least they think I'm sweet..." The corners of her pale pink lips curled, brilliant blue eyes glimmered in amusement. She wasn't about to tell him what she really thought about it, but mainly because she had others things in mind. The same things he had in mind now, she figured, as he finally took his seat.

"Odd guest of honor, a cripple younger child who works as a confessor of all things for a Targaryen King."

The reaction from Alyssa was literally instant, "We have no issue with our Targaryen king." The lie came so easy, so fast, there was no thinking involved or hesitation needed.

"You have an army gathered for some purpose, Lady Arryn, and while I was initially just disappointed I wouldn't get a chance to meet the Lioness herself I now must admit I find myself just as curious to ask you why it is you have an army that looks very active and very ready to march. Could this have anything to do with--"

"--oops." The voice of Lizzie Grafton followed the ice cold water spilled in his direction. Larys' twisted foot wouldn't allow a quick escape, leaving him only the fate of getting drenched. Except in that last moment, when the perfurmed Lady Arryn in the blue silk dress that prehaps fit a little too well for a woman unwed and still so young if already a woman grown came reaching across with a rag snatched from a nearby servant.

The servant, Delia, was a mother of two and worked hard or harder than any other servant that Alyssa knew. Of course Delia had been there in that very moment with that very rag. Even if the rag smelled a little like spilled beer it still soaked up the cold water quickly. Alyssa and Lizzie shared a long, hard, look before Alyssa offered Larys a polite little smile and a sweeter tone to match. Neither had missed the way the young Clubfoot, nearly the very same age as her, had looked his way up down Alyssa's body as she leaned over to help him.

Very curious.

"Justice, Lord Strong. I'm going to bring justice to those who were part of the conspiracy to kill my parents and then cover it up. Using information that you gave me. Information I hope that you can continue to provide me. As for the Lady Celena Lannister..." Alyssa's face changed. Her features hardened, but her smile only extended. It was a dangerous, sharp, tone she found herself speaking with. "Play along nicely and you will get your chance to mingle with the lioness, much as you may come to regret it, Lord Strong."

After the lemon cakes and berries with sweet cream Alyssa found an excuse to get up, slipping behind her uncle, and stealing her moment to whisper in his ear from behind, "Lord Larys will not interfere. We move in the morning for Darry. We'll tell Lord Larys along the way and see what he has, by then hopefully Lady Celena returns from King's Landing, or at least sends word."

A quick touch on the back of his shoulder and she was gone, rounding off the dais and bumping with a half silk covered and half exposed shoulder into the the old knight Ronnel who was still trying to hold up the marble wall. "Go sit down, we leave in the morning," words accompanied by big blue eyes with dark fluttering lashes and a smile that was genuinely sweet as it was over the type mockery of sweetness. It was a passing assault, anyway, as she went towards the tables to begin the rounds of speaking to who she needed to speak to while Myranda and Lizzie snuck off.
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Draknoz mo Rarahl - The Road to Yunkai

The host reached Yunkai territory at dawn - Emmisaries had been sent ahead demanding that Yunkai subordinate itself to 'their liege', King Grazdan the Chainbringer of New Ghis, the rightful heir to the Ghiscari Empire. Said emissaries, of course, had their heads and only their heads returned, but that just meant that General Draknoz mo Rarahl now had a signal to begin the raiding of Yunkai's hinterland.

As the army marched at full speed towards Yunkai, cavalry moving to sieze goods and burn farmsteads, as well as ward off Yunkai's counter-raids, Draknoz made sure to wear at least a set of lamellar armor under his robes in order to deter assassins - The Wise Masters might attempt to employ them.

Draknoz planned to set up his main supply base base south of Yunkai, on a birchwood forest near a slanting sandstone ridge. This forest would provide wood for siege towers and ladders, and animals for meat and hides that can be used to protect said siege towers from arrows. It would also deny precious resources to their enemy. Note that in order to maintain his troops' allegiance, Draknoz would have to pick a 'true' headquarters closer to the walls of Yunkai. That, unless the enemy sent troops to burn the birchwood first - Which is why he was going to lead the scouting force that would sieze the area himself.

Draknoz mo Rarahl - South of Yunkai

The General was right - He had just reached the birchwood to find a company of slave soldiers setting up kindling and torches, escorted by a small band of Highborn Yunkai warriors. He gestured with his free hand to split his battalion - Half of his horsemen were to scatter the slave soldiers, while he and his bodyguards were to charge the Highborn. He was counting on superior steel and superior organization to win this round.

Surprised, the Highborn were only able to mount their horses at the last minute - A few had camels, but those were quickly caught before they can mount them. Otherwise, the battle might have gone differently due to the effectiveness of camels against horses.

Draknoz and his bodyguards cut through the now-mounted enemy, with the General himself having the pleasure of unhorsing the opposing commander, a noble with more eagerness than sense. That was what happened when one allowed the martial spirit of Old Ghis to falter.

Now, the birchwood and its precious building materials were theirs', an important step in the upcoming conquest.

Draknoz mo Rarahl - Just Outside Yunkai

A few more days and the host reached seeing distance of Yunkai's walls, and detachments of the Iron Legions were then sent to construct siege lines, while slaves would be tasked to work in the direction of the siege engineers as they unpacked the catapults, ballistae, and trebuchets that were needed to destroy the city walls. More heralds - recruited from the prisoners taken in the birchwood - were sent to deliver a message to the slave-soldiers of Yunkai, simply saying, "Those who swear loyalty to the New Ghiscari Empire will be freed. Those who do not will be made slaves themselves. Make your choice."
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Lord Emmon Arryn

As the dinner party unfolded, and with it the carefully coordinated intrigue planned out by Lady Alyssa, Lord Emmon suffered in silence. He had no major part to play this evening beyond his usual role: the figurehead meant to keep the lords and ladies content and believing that they were not in fact being led entirely by the whims of a maid who by their reckoning ought to have been married and whelping a litter of offspring for some lord by now. Even Emmon was pleasantly surprised by just how competent the young woman was, and he was the one who had fought to protect her right of inheritance. He had his own reasons for that, of course, but her sharp wit made it easy to avoid any sense of guilt or regret over refusing to become the Lord Arryn rather than the pretend puppet master of Lady Arryn. Many of the more traditional nobles of the Vale would bluntly refuse to consider her worthiness for the position, so Emmon played at being the true power in the Eyrie in order to allow Alyssa the freedom to rule as she saw fit without a horde of concerned lords and ladies second guessing her every move.

Though he wished he had more to do than sit at the table and look lordly, Emmon had to admit to himself that the plan for this evening's work had no place for him. Lady Alyssa and the young ladies who were so often her co-conspirators would be able to manipulate Larys Strong without any need for his input. While he kept an eye and ear on the lot of them, just in case something went wrong, Emmon plied Lady Myriah Waxley with the other half of his attention. By the Seven, she was a dull woman. The only reason he tolerated her fawning and insipid questions was the certain knowledge that before the evening was through she would be warming his bed and, more importantly, his cock. She was just the sort of lady that many a lord would lust after, pretty and pleasant and oh so willing to please, but they were far too easy to coax into bed with a few honeyed words. Emmon of course still took the time to dribble that seductive honey into their ears, and he thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of his labors, but there was no challenge to it. He'd grown fond of pursuing more challenging prey, like devoutly chaste women who guarded their virtue like the Iron Bank guards gold or ladies who seemed like they'd just as soon behead him as bed him, but this evening he was left with few options. Lady Myriah would suffice as this evening's entertainment, as she already had done more than once in the past.

Tension drained from Emmon as Alyssa quickly whispered word of her success into his ear before slipping away. With her plan executed successfully, all that was left for him to do was see to the end of the dinner party. As Lady Arryn and her companions departed, Lady Myriah began hinting in a not at all subtle fashion that the evening was getting late and perhaps she ought to go lay down. Emmon kept her content with lascivious remarks about how she'd be busy with things far more interesting than merely laying in bed, but he remained at the head table as some of the lords and ladies present saw fit to come up and discuss important matters with him only after Alyssa had left, as expected. He gave them noncommittal answers to their inquiries and requests, making excuses about the hour being too late and his cup having seen too much wine to give any firm response, but in truth he was simply memorizing their issues in order to pass them along to Lady Arryn to deal with as she pleased. As the number of people furtively looking for an opportunity to approach Emmon started to reach its end, he passed a key to Lady Myriah under the table and murmured a few instructions to her. The sudden flush that spread across her cheeks was quite gratifying, as was the fact that she down the remaining half glass of wine before her and immediately stood to go and do as she was told.

When Emmon himself finally left, after standing to thank all those who had attended and wishing them all a good night, he took his time and a winding route to reach his room. They were set to leave in the morning, and their planned destination had him feeling both excited and trepidatious. It was both the culmination of a lot of work and the start of something new. It would likely be the defining act of Lady Alyssa Arryn's reign, and if things went well it would also be the act that forced the lords and ladies of the Vale to view her as the true ruler she was. Only time would tell, and Emmon could only contemplate it for so long before going in mental circles got tiresome. By the time he got to his room, he was more than ready to toss aside tomorrow's worries and focus on enjoying the here and now. The future would sort itself out, one way or another.
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Draknoz mo Rarahl - Just Outside Yunkai

The bombardment had gone on for days, with no sign of stopping, but Yunkai's walls were proving equal to the challenge - More drastic measures had to be used. General Draknoz mo Rarahl, now in full armor and standing inside the largest siege tower the Iron Legions had yet built, was even more glad his forces had siezed the birchwood to the south to build more siege towers like the one he was in. But he was even more glad that New Ghis' Fleet and one more Legion had arrived, smashing Yunkai's weaker flotilla and blockading the city. Now the noose can be tightened and the city assaulted.

Draknoz ordered the unfurling of a great banner from the top of the siege tower - That was the signal for the four other siege towers situated all around Yunkai's walls to move in tandem along with it, dragged by frightened and broken slaves. Moving alongside said siege towers were 'tortoises', large frames of wood and hardened leather covered in mud for fireproofing, whose purpose was to shelter a number of troops and slaves below them so they can undermine Yunkai's already-battered walls. But this was all futile without the fleet and the Legion on it threatening the city with starvation and occupying the attention of many of its troops.

Arrows and stones began to hit the siege tower, but the engineering of the structure/vehicle was good enough to withstand such tiny hits, while the hardened leather, covered in mud, was able to withstand mudnane fire. And spies from within the city had already sent word to him that there were no contacts between the Wise Masters and the Alchemists' Guild as of yet, so Wildfire was not one of their options.

The General would have opened his mouth to give a rousing speech to his men, but one of the reasons he had not been promoted for a long time was because he just was not good at giving rousing speeches, which were valued in New Ghis' martial society.

But the King valued him as well, valued him enough to overlook that. And so he waited for the siege tower to reach Yunkai's walls, even as the rain of crossbow bolts and slingstones intensified, with a few going through the siege towers' portholes to injure a few of his men. Roused to anger by thiss, Draknoz mo Rarahl finally found his voice and said to his men, "We'll make them pay for every bolt in their blood! They refused to surrender when it was time, their city burns soon afterward!"

The men of the Iron Legions gave a loud 'Hurrah!', finally seeing some spirit in their commanding officer. Draknoz smirked, glad that he had stopped being boring just for this second.

And with that, the siege towers finally landed their platforms, allowing him and the Iron Legions' fiercest swordsmen to charge, scattering the ranks of slave-soldiers as they cut through the ranks of weak men like butter, causing them to flee the walls, a few even jumping off rather than face an actual soldier in battle. The highborn Yunkai officers commanding the soldiers threw down their weapons in surrender, further confirming their reputation for cowardice. Draknoz smiled at that - More confirmation that these men were more fit to be slaves than 'True' Ghiscari.

With rare bloodthirst in his voice, he roared.
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The Stepstones

By the time Corlys pulled his blade from the last of the assailants, his arm ached with a bone-deep pain which he knew would persist for many a day. Gone were the days where he could spring forth through an endless stream of melee and remain as unscathed as ever. Now each fight was a sacrifice, a piece of his future given for a greater goal.

"Pull us away from her less she drowns us with her." The seasoned sailor called back to his crew, pulling open the guard of his helm to shout the order. The Myrish had been fighting a losing battle the entire time, but not there was no avoiding it. Some were even risking the sharks to avoid any further fighting. The straights were narrow enough that some of them might reach the rocks before the fish got them, not that Corlys favoured their chances. Now would usually be the time to ransack the stricken enemy vessel for supplies, but, this was not a simple engagement or a raid, this was a campaign, and they did not have time to delay.

By the time The Sea Snake had fully extracted itself from the Myrish vessel and pushed on past, flames had already began to lick across the Essosi ship. Daemon's forces had little need for further ships at their current strength, even if they had the men spare to secure it in the meantime, so, instead, none would benefit. Corlys watched the building inferno for a few moments longer, before his eyes cast forwards.

"Stay ready, we're here for a fortress, not a ship." With that the Head of House Velaryon slammed his helm shut. Their intelligence was as good as any, there was little that could be hidden from dragonback after all, not even in the winding straights of the Stepstones. One of the last remaining holdouts in the Stepstones was close, they would bring it to heel. They did not have to wait long to find their quarry, another few twists and turns among the rocky outcrops of the islands to spy the Pirate Holdfast. A sorry thing, a wooden fort perched atop a sea-lashed rock, it's docks far outstripping the size of the fortification itself. Once an outpost for raiders, the Myrish had seized it in their efforts to control the Narrow Sea, for now, it's port remained empty. Daemon had pulled the fleet away, Corlys would strike the blow.

The low twang of Ballista soon filled the air, the Sea Snake banked around to present its broadside to the Hillfort. Many bolts simply threw up salt spray, but among them was the crash of wood and the screams of men. As time went on, the skilled crew of the Velaryon flagship struck home more and more. A spattering of return fire responded to them, but the Sea Snake weaved out of range of the land-based emplacements, and as soon as they revealed themselves, the crew had their primary targets. The Sea Snake's artillery teams ripped gouges into the wooden fort, ripping out the enemy emplacements. When the fort went silent, this was when Corlys ordered the vessel forwards.

The Sea Snakes archers cleared the enemy docks of any resistance, the flagship coming abreast of the docks, gang planks slamming down. No need to risk a boat-crossing when the foe's own docks could be used against them. Then the Westerosi, and all their assorted allies, issued forth, the crop of Daemon's forces sent to subdue a final, lonely outpost. Corlys strode among them, despite the ache in his joints. He wouldn't have it said the Old Snake could no longer stand beside his men.

I am too old for this.
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Lysono Saan - The Stepstones

The striped hull of the galleas Sharako's Revenge glided around the headland and into the narrow rocky bay of the Triarchy stronghold just as the Sea Snake docked below. Upon its prow, stood its captain - Lysono Saan, Lord of Wreckstone. He cut a striking figure, purple satin finery under a coat of scales, silver hair unbound down his back. His left leg was raised up upon the ship's rail and to his eye was pressed a Myrish spyglass. Through its cunning lenses he watched as Daemon's men poured forth from the decks of the Sea Snake and onto the islet.

"It appears we are right on time." He spoke in Low Valyrian, and to no one in particular it seemed, his men all being busy stowing the sails or arming themselves. His voice was soft with the flowing and musical tones of the tongue of Lys. A knowing smile played across his lips as he folded the spyglass and thrust it into a pocket. So far everything was going according to plan.

Behind him, another striped galleas swung into the bay, the Orphan, followed by a sailing cog and finally a galley. A small detachment of the Wreckstone fleet arrived without prior warning in the closing stages of the battle, just in time to take a share of its plunder. Like vultures circling a dying man. News of Corlys' renewed campaign had come to Lysono as they had rounded Estermont a few days before. He had been planning to return straight to Wreckstone after his errand in the north, but the opportunity to seek plunder for crew and steal some glory from the Sea Snake was too much to pass.

They had not hurried themselves in coming to this desolate isle. Their oars did not pull at full speed nor were their sails full rigged. They had advanced at a leisurely pace, letting the Sea Snake fight its way into warren of islets and sandbanks before following sedately in its wake. Garin had wanted blood as always, but Lysono was more than content to let Corlys exhaust his own men first. Besides should the old man take an arrow in the fray... who would that leave at Daemon's right hand?

"All hands to the deck! Prepare for landing!" Men swarmed up onto the decks from below, an assorted motley of every colour and creed, heavily if diversely armed. Essosi wielding rapier blades and stiletto daggers, Westerosi in metal plate, Dornish spears, Summer Islanders with their great bows, hairy Ibbenese holding axes, and standing a head above all of them, a muscled Brindled Man with a sword like a meat cleaver clenched in his barbaric fist. His crew.

"You should all know the score by now! Any plunder belongs to the ship and will be split amongst the crew! Any man found hiding his share will be punished! Kill all who resist, those who surrender we take for ransom, or for slaves!"

The empty berth alongside the Sea Snake was only a few hundred feet away now. Lysono raised his silver gilt helm onto his head, it was decorated with scenes that would make a whore blush and crested with peacock feathers. He looked across the Orphan that was pulling alongside them. Garin, in his gleaming bronze armour, was giving the same speech no doubt as was Lem beyond him and Torreo beyond him again. It was the code of the fleet. His father's code originally. The quayside drew level with the ship. Lysono lowered his visor.

"Valar Morghulis! Now let's get out there and make ourselves rich!"

The gangplank fell, and they rushed in for the slaughter.
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Draknoz mo Rarahl - Yunkai

Yunkai was burning.

It was not intended to burn forever, just for enough time for the lesson King Grazdan the Chainbringer wanted to inflict to be marked into the population's collective heart. The Wise Masters of Yunkai needed to be decimated, with the remainder cowed into compliance. Thus, the palaces and mansions of the city were being ransacked of everything of value, although those who were already slaves were treated as well as possible - General Draknoz mo Rarahl reserved his ire for those who had the freedom to reject the unification of the Ghiscari and did so out of greed and true cowardice.

Despite this exposing him to charges of greed, Draknoz led the charge against the treasury building of Yunkai, hoping to secure the accumulated profits of the Wise Masters for New Ghis and take charge of its distribution to the troops. Scattering the bands of soldiers - Slaves commanded by highborn officers - Draknoz and his personal guard entered the golden chambers, where more slaves - who bore torches - were piling kindling among the gold in preparation for its destruction.

"Halt!" the General's voice boomed out, "Any slave who puts out their torches will be freed at once! Anyone who tries to resist will stay a slave!"

No one tried to resist.

Four Hours Later

The Sack of Yunkai began in earnest, with all the blood and atrocity that accompanied such an action. The highborn aristocracy of the city, and those members of the 'Wise Masters' that weren't worthy of either death or freedom, would be stripped of their tokars and shaved of their elaborate hairstyles, in order to mark that they were no longer masters or nobles, but slaves as low as their former chattel - This was to be sealed by parading them naked around the city that was once theirs. Draknoz licked his lips - Perhaps he'd keep a few highborn youths and ladies for himself. That would be pleasurable, to teach them how to serve instead of being served.

But the next few days would bring the moment of truth - Astapor's spies were already sensing that the Iron Legions of New Ghis were here to stay, and so the next moves in the game of conquest needed to be played. What treasure remained had to be gathered and loaded into the fleet, where the Admiral, Princess Resherri, was waiting to transport it to Astapor itself. Once that happened, the ball will be in her court. Well, hers' and the Pro-Unification Party in Astapor, which would be emboldened by the sack and conquest of Yunkai.

Draknoz hoped they can play their parts well - This next stage was more delicate...

Princess Reshem mo Grazdan

Princess Reshem loved fighting, and her father had realized this potential early on. Not for her were the joys and toil of motherhood and marriage, but the advancement of New Ghis and its dream of a Reborn Ghsicari Empire. As the treasure was loaded into the ships of the Ghiscari Fleet, escorted by Unsullied guards already bought from Astapor, she made sure General Draknoz's accounts were correct - She needed as much gold and other treasures as she can, including the newly-enslaved members of the highborn of Yunkai, many of them taken from Astapor's most vemehent enemies.

She hoped that this would prove a gift that can open many doors...
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