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    1. SunsetWanderer 8 yrs ago


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The Westerlands
Near the Source of the Tumblestone River

Everything changed when the message was offered to her by one of the runners from the Bank. Attached was a note from Heath, the apprentice she had showed her badly drawn black bird with three eyes and asked him to look into it, knowing his connections to the Citadel in Oldtown. Lady Lorelai, my former instructors at the Citadel were VERY curious how this question came about. They’ve asked you to reach out to them. Below is the letter they sent to you in response.

Lorelai felt as if the world fell away from her as her green eyes danced over the neatly written letter from the Archmaesters of High Mysteries and History. ”A very curious inquiry, Lady Lorelai. The Three-Eyed Raven, or Three-Eyed Crow, was largely associated with the Children of the Forest and the First Men.” There was half a page of summary on the wars between Children and First Men, of weir woods, wargs. Where one Archmaster used words like legend and myths from pre-history, the other Archmaester used other, far more alarming, words. Old Gods. Avatar of the Old Gods. Greensight. Future, past, ancient magics.

The more she read, the worse it got, the more she felt as if she might fly away from the earth below her at any moment. The parchments were refolded, tightly, and placed safely on her person.

“…you alright?” Her body nearly jumped as her eyes looked up at Keeno after he asked the question.

“You’re shaking,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“Remember that tree we found?”

His eyes grew suspicious, “the one with the face in the cave opening?”

“We need to go.”

He nearly laughed, “No problem we’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning, and…” It was then, looking at her face, that he stopped, looking as if his heart had collapsed into his stomach. Then he nodded, slowly, “…alright, okay. Let’s go now, but change, first.”

She knew what he meant. It wasn’t the dull brown cloak he minded, that would be fine, but it was the dress underneath. When it was just the two of them in the open country, he preferred she not look exactly like every soul around expected Lorelai Lannister to look like. Her hair was pinned up and tied off with a strap of leather, and riding leathers worn from dust and age, frayed threads and discolored edges.

The trip was starlit and windswept; it was little different than heading to Oxcross, until the low mountains of the Westerlands came into stark silhouette against the night sky, lit only in the pale milk glass shine of the half-moon hanging overhead. Then their horses took a sharp, northern, turn into what seemed like the face of those low mountains.

In the dark, the ride seemed more treacherous to her, but Keeno seemed completely unphased. The horses will know what to do, she reminded herself, content with the thought and the knowledge that there was nothing but flat plains right up to the mountains and hills. The grass thinned and interspaced with dust and rock, as the country began to transition the further from Casterly Rock they got.

It was at least an hour between the sharp northern turn from the road before they saw the ghosts on the distant horizon. The stood as black remains of what had once been a memory of a town, the kind of memory that few even bothered to remember these days. “It was a stranger sight in the light,” she marked.

Keeno snorted, “Only you would find a ghost town more disturbing in the light than in darkness. Stay close, I saw no signs of life last time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t now.”

He wasn’t wrong. There was ever the odd bandit group in the area and ghost towns of the Westerlands. The empty vessel of what had once been a town was situated at the opening of a massive canyon, in the shadow of the mountain, and on the far side of the tallest of the low mountains of the west, if she was right, would have been close to the source of the Tumblestone River.

Keeno went slowly, leaving the horses tied to the half-collapsed wall of one of the outer most building of the ghost town, a hut now opened to the elements from caved in roof to southern wall. The mountains were a great wide stretch of stone and darkness set under the blaze of starlight and the moonlight that seemed only half as alive as it might normally be. By the time they were close, Keenu’s blade was sheathed.

“I don’t see any signs of life.” He said it as if he were only half satisfied, as if there was still doubt, “Still, let’s be careful.”

The entrance to the mine was on the hill above the town, carved out of the stone of the mountain face on the right side of the canyon, before you even entered the steep canyon itself. Timbers were sound, and the bones of mine were fair enough. Keenu went about foraging for a makeshift torch. Lighting it was a matter of the kit he always kept in his saddle bag, the firestarter retrieved when they went back for the horses.

“Better to keep the horses near the entrance of the mine.”

In the mine he continued to question the framework of the mine, and their direction. She laughed, even if softly, gently, at the nervous man, “I learned mines when I learned to walk, Keeno. My brother and I would spend far too much time exploring the ancient mines under the Rock.”

“Your home is a strange fucking place.”

It made her laugh louder, “True enough, but I can tell you this mine was well designed. If it was abandoned, it was likely abandoned because they thought it ran dry.”

“That explain the way the floor collapsed under us and we found that hidden hollow?”

True enough. The hidden hollow was a shock. Quite frankly, Lorelai had seen nothing like it, ever before. It wasn’t unusual for her to explore the ghost towns of the Westerlands. They’d found bandits before, they’d found half-mad squatters, but they had never found undiscovered hollows in mountains before.
“I think it has to do with the source of the Tumblestone River. That explains the water of the small lake. A hidden fork of the Tumblestone in the stone. The green. The birds we saw. I didn’t smell bats.”

“You can smell bats?”

She grinned, “You can smell their droppings.”

His face twisted, “Lovely, Lorelai,” he said with a sigh as he might have suddenly regretted leading the way, “left or right?”


He looked back, “Sure?”

“I told you; I know mines. The power of the Westerlands, of House Lannister, is utterly dependent on them. Yes, I’m sure.”

“Oookay ‘absolutely normal’ noble Lady. Want to explain why there’s only one tree?”

Lorelai blinked. “What?”

A puddle splashed as he stepped forward, his head having to duck so he didn’t hit rock dipping down just low enough to brush him otherwise, dipping the torch with him, shadows shifting as he did it, “Well, I’m thinking, the hidden river explains the hollow, the little lake…but not the tree.”

“The opening at the top allows light. Light, water, air…the roots twist into the rock itself.”

He slowly paced forward before her, his turning this way and that, as if a caution and care was so deeply entrenched into him that not even the safety of a subterranean world could ease him. “The place of that tree doesn’t look odd?”


“…yes, like it was put there on purpose. It’s only one tree. Out of the entire hollow. It’s on a protrusion of the rock, like it was put atop some great platform, like a throne in the middle of this hollow over the lake below. You said the Archmaester of Mystery—”

“—Higher Mysteries—”

“—whatever. My point, you really don’t think this thing was hidden here by someone?”

She hadn’t. She hadn’t, at least, until now. The collapsed stone allowed a rough sort of ramp that he went down first, and helped her down after. The light ahead visible almost immediately at the end of the small natural tunnel of stone. The light of the torch reflected brightly through here, as deposits of obsidian rolled out of the otherwise pale, rough, stone walls.

The torch was stuck into a small open space of two faces of rock coming together, holding it upright with a tight grip. The moonlight was enough, shining on the mossy, grassy, path of stone leading out and up like a primordial ramp, then stair, to the tree of white bark, blood red leaves, and agonized face staring at them.

“Okay. What now?”

I don’t know, she admitted to herself only, giving Keeno little more than a shrug. “I just feel like I need to be here.”

“…sure. I’ll look around. Maybe there’s some smaller, normal, trees or bush around for kindling. Maybe I can start a small fire.”

She heard the sound of beating wings and turned to the tree before and stationed above her, and the hidden lake below. She neared in the silvery moonlight, watching the face of the tree stare at her with its deeply cut, anguished eyes. She nearly fell when she was at the base of the tree; not from the ground below, but the sudden cut of the sound.


Her hand reached out to the trunk of the tree, stabilizing herself against it as she looked almost straight up and saw it. The big black bird, staring at her, three eyes. “…you’re a crow, not a raven.”

”Fly or die, Lorelai Lannister. Fly or die.”

When she looked back over her shoulder for Keeno, he wasn’t there. The large hollow wasn’t there. Not even the moon remained, replaced by a sunlight that wasn’t warm to her skin, in an air that felt cold to her lungs, but not to any other part of her. Looking forward she blinked, the heart tree gone.

Here was nothing but a little valley surrounded by green covered stone that tumbled into the valley as rocky hills on all sides. The wind was harsher, louder, and off in the distance the low rumble of a waterfall. Dark stones stood in audience, arranged in a pattern she had never seen before.

At its center, a weir wood.

“It’s too soon, and you’re not the boy. Why are you here?”

Lorelai’s eyes blinked to her left to the man’s voice, maybe ten paces before her, watching the valley as he sat upon one of the hills. He sat shirtless, short, half-kept, reddish hair atop the man’s head. With his back to her, she never did see his face.

“…who are you?”

He never looked back at her. He only nodded forward, towards the rocks, towards the weir wood she saw for the first time only now. Surrounded by small, dark, figures that appeared half nature, half child. “What are they doing?” she asked, seeing the man for the first time. Her head snapped back to the seated, shirtless man. “How are you…” Her voice trailed, head snapping back towards the weir wood at the sound of muffled screaming.

When the black shard was pressed into the man's chest, Lorelai’s hands went over her mouth to cover her gasp.

“They will regret it. They always do. And you…”

Everything froze as the world went black and white. It was a moment before she realized it; the starless sky above, the winds so sharp and so cold the chill she had felt within her before was still spreading like a fire through every inch of her, in and out. And the man…his skin was pale grey-white skin, sinewy and stretched taut across his thin, tall frame. His wore armor that looked to her eyes as thin as a single sheet of ice, a delicate thing that reflected the little light that remained to the creation around her in hues of blue, pale red, purple, and always, white, then again shifting as he moved towards her.

Behind him stood endless shadows shaped like men. She went to run, but felt herself frozen, unmoving. The only thing she heard was wind, and screaming…it wasn’t until he stepped closer still that she realized the screaming was her own, and that of the bird’s shriek.

Her screaming was everlong, an echo that seemed to her to span infinite, reverberating within her, colliding with another scream in her own voice, an endless chain reaction of screams and silence that might have reached forever, had her eyes not opened.

Her body snapped at the sudden gasp of air. Panic clinched her as she flailed, only to find herself restrained.

“Stop, Lorelai, stop…”

She saw only moonlight until the shadow came to view. The shadow was truer, and warmer, like her skin suddenly, until her vision began to focus and…”Keeno,” she breathed, heat flooding her face as her green eyes sobbed and her body tensed so tightly she felt she might snap, her lungs rabid, gasping for every panicked breath in a hard pant that only worsened, and worsened.

“I’ve got you, calm down, Lorelai…LORELAI!”

His scream was nothing but a whisper as she felt herself fall, past the stone, past the water, and into a pool of neverending darkness, unconscious.

It had been some hours since the burnings, and an uneasy quiet still gripped the halls of Casterly Rock. There were no great parties - no performances by the mummers, and no songs echoing through the eve. Instead, there was only silence. Servants, guests and courtiers hurried past one another with awkward stares and quick whispers. Loreon was suffocated by it, as if the silence was some tangible thing grabbing at his neck.

He had been in his room, staring into the embers of the fireplace that slowly dimmed - Kinvara offered kind words, patient with him as she always was, but in truth he barely heard her. Am I truly Azor Ahai? Why did I let them burn the Septon? Was the vision real? Why didn’t it save Aegon? Would he save Westeros from darkness? Did Lysara want more offerings?

Questions raced through his mind. It was driving him mad. Am I mad?

“Come with me to bed. You are tired, my love.” When he gave no reply, Kinvara stepped lightly toward him, setting her hand against the back of his neck. Still, he stared motionlessly into the dying flames. A peaceful, blue glow filled the room from the moonlight that crept in through the windows as the light from the fading fire began to retreat.

Undeterred by his silence, she circled around him and knelt to match his eyeline. Her hazel eyes met his, and she took one of his hands in both her own. “You need to sleep.”

Broken finally from the prison of his own thoughts, his lips pursed to a slight smile. He held her gaze for a while - it had always been her eyes that he found most captivating. A soft sigh of defeat followed. He had never been strong enough to argue her for long. “Yes, sleep. I know. I’ve just been…”, his gaze drifted to where the fire once burned, now dimmed entirely. “… do you believe her - Lysara? I saw something in the flames, I saw m-“

“I think.”, she interrupted quietly. “That you are Loreon. That you are lord of these lands. That you are my love.” With each answer, she knelt closer, before finally setting a kiss on his lips. “Is that not enough?” She pressed upwards, keeping hold of his hand to pull him alongside. “Come, to bed.”

He lay awake beside her, staring upwards to the ceiling. It had been decorated over the years, stories and legends carved into the rock. There was Lann the Clever beside a Lion greater in size than any man - the tale of how he came to win Casterly Rock from the gullible Casterly’s, of course. There was famed warrior Tybolt the Thunderbolt, Lancel the Lion who conquered half the Reach, Gerold the Great who burned the Iron Islands… their legends continued, forever remembered. Men could rise and fall, but their names would never die.

He wanted to be among them. He had ventured across the Narrow Sea and retrieved Brightroar. He had survived ambushes, ancient tombs, lifeless desert sands, exotic beasts and terrible seas. Surely, he would be remembered as one of their greatest, alongside Lann. Loreon, the Lion of Lannister.

…but, what if he could be more. His thoughts turned again to the promises of Lysara. That he was a Champion of Light, and that he would be the saviour not just of his house, but of all Westeros.

Sleep eluded him.

In search of some peace and perhaps answers, he snuck from bed while Kinvara slept, careful not to wake her. He found himself pausing for a moment while he observed her sleeping form. Maybe she was right. Maybe he had enough, already. The urge to stay crept at him, but was soon after batted away. There was one he had to see. His sister, Lorelai, and once his greatest confidant. She would have wisdom for him - and then he would decide whether to content himself with his life.

Loreon found his white destrier in the stables and rode hard into the night. His golden armor replaced by a subtle outfit of browns and blacks, a thick riding cloak wrapped about him.

Strapped to his saddle, Brightroar accompanied him - as it always did. The greatsword was a bit over half his size when stood beside him, but surprisingly light, owed to the Valyrian steel used in it’s forging. The pommel of the blade was the head of a roaring lion with a full mane, entirely of gold. Red leather covered the hilt, with yet more gold etched throughout.

He could not be sure how much time had passed as he rode, though darkness still claimed the nights sky above. Only the moon and stars lit his path forward, galloping at pace with the mountains of the Westerlands on all horizons.

Eventually, the shapes of abandoned shacks and large mining constructions of pulleys and towers came into view. This was one of the many towns that had long since been abandoned in the Westerlands, once thriving towns that had gradually emptied once the mines had dried. This particular one was not so far from Casterly, and if he remembered correctly, it was where he would find his sister. She had thoughtfully left word before leaving, as she often did, and he regretted that this would be the first time he had ever gone to see her in this way. When they were children, they were closer than any and rarely found apart. He remembered promising her that they would travel the world together, that she would see the Titan of Braavos and the long bridge of Volantis. Instead, he had left her behind to face a life of relentless duty. It was she who cared for their father as he grew weak, who alone carried the pain of her promised’s death, and who inherited and cared for the network of informants, spies and agents passed to her. She deserved her brother, but he had not been there for her. It was not because he did not wish to be - rather, that his shame from leaving had made him sooner to avoid her in the halls than to speak with her. He had not once written to her while in Essos. She thought he was dead, they all did. Why didn’t I write to her?

Coming upon two steeds, tethered beside the entrance to a mine carved into the rock of a mountain, Loreon hitched his own and dismounted - lifting the sheath of Brightroar and wearing it across his back. He recognised the town, vaguely, and some hazy memories came to his mind. It was possible he’d come here with Lorelai many years ago, he’d lost track of all the old mines they’d explored - but, then again, so many of them looked the same. He pressed on, starting toward the entrance of the mine.

The small cloaked form watched from a distance. Though she wore a simple cloak and riding leathers, she was out of place, her movements too loud, her attempt to conceal herself in vain. The princess called up memories of hiding through the Aegonfort, playing with her siblings, but it was painful, and the stakes had been so low.

It had been absurd to take off after the Lord Paramount. Melony had told her as much before she grabbed a stablehand’s cloak, threw it around Rhaena’s shoulders, and urged a dagger into her hands. The Princess had sought him out to confront him over the failure of the sacrifices, but when they instead saw him hastily heading to the stables, alone, they decided instead to pursue him.

Lady Piper had held Rhaena’s hand between hers, and for a moment, that had nearly been it - a wordless goodbye. Her friend’s sad eyes stared back at her, tears that threatened to pool over. ”I had so been looking forward to seeing you again, my princess. I had hoped…Well, now is not the time nor will it be for a while.” She could not go with her friend, there was something else she needed to see to, but there would be no dissuading Rhaena from this task.

The princess, full of sorrow and longing to feel anything but the gaping void inside her, pulled her hand away from Melony, cupped it to her friend’s cheek. ”I loved you. Join me, in whatever comes next.” She stood on her toes, pulled Melony to her, their lips touching tentatively at first. A remembrance of sweet youth when neither had known any better. Innocence and desire, a hunger that threatened to consume Rhaena and engulf Melony with her. Lady Piper gave into it, let herself be carried away in the moment she had long hoped for again. She was taller than Rhaena, broader than her, and with ease she wrapped her arms around the broken princess, pressed her against the wall. But sense returned to her and she pulled away reluctantly, a sad smile across tingling lips. ”I love you still, I will go where you go for as long as you want me. But go, find Lord Lannister, before he gets too far ahead.”

Rhaena had picked up the path easily enough, urged the horse onward to the abandoned village where two other horses awaited Loreon and now her. How odd. She followed him from a distance, attempting to stay low, attempting to step quietly. Loreon, at least, did not seem to notice her.

She ducked into a building when the Lord began to turn as if to orient himself. A hand grabbed her from behind, rough and forceful, turned her to face him.

“What have we here, a little lady skulking about?”

Rhaena screamed, eyes wide with surprise, before the man’s hand clamped down over her mouth and nose.

The scream pierced through the air, startling him as he spun around on his heel. The three horses next to him huffed and stirred uncomfortably at the sudden noise. Around him, there was no sign of movement. There were a few smaller buildings in the immediate vicinity, but only one that remained mostly intact - the remains of what once served as the storehouse for minerals and metals retrieved from the mine.

He stepped toward it, slowly, with the crunch of dirt and loose rocks under each quiet step. It hadn’t sounded like Lorelai - but if not her, who? Maybe it was her. The possibility spurred him forward and his pace quickened, though Brightroar remained in its scabbard across his back. Soon he came to the open doorway, the door itself likely long missing. It was pitch black inside, the intact roof blocking any illumination from the moon - and the boards on the windows similarly ensured a dark interior.


There were boards on the windows.

Realising his mistake only too late, a feral roar came from within the building as a figure emerged speedily from the shadows charging toward him. ”GRAAAAH! The wind was knocked from his chest as the man bashed his shoulder squarely against his torso, knocking Loreon onto the dirt with a solid thud.

A few strong kicks landed against the side of Loreon’s body in quick succession, before the man lunged down to grab at his chest - that was his mistake. Loreon broke the grab, rolling to the side and springing to his feet. An arm wrapped around his neck, trying immediately to pull Loreon backwards, but it was broken after a few strong elbows to the stomach behind him. Now, the two faced one another, circling silently for a few seconds against the dark sky. His attacker looked in thirties, give or take, with long scraggly hair of dirty brown and unkempt stubble. Their clothes were ragged, frayed and torn with mismatched boots. Bandits.

The bandit made the first move, lunging with a lazy punch that was easily avoided, but his second strike landed solidly against his jaw. The taste of blood filled Loreon’s mouth. The man was slow, uncoordinated but strong, the way most peasant fighters tended to be. More lunges came toward Loreon, these avoided more easily as the man began to tire and as Loreon increasingly found his footwork, dancing across the dry soil beneath their feet. He remained on the defensive, absorbing a few more strikes against his chest and shoulder.

It was a mistake on Loreon’s part that allowed what came next, stepping too slowly to the side as the man suddenly flew toward him with another enraged yell, his coarse hands grabbing Loreon’s neck and slamming him against the remains of a nearby wall. With his strength, he lifted Loreon from the ground, squeezing tightly at his neck, watching as the Lannister’s skin turned almost the same shade of red for which they were known. Loreon brought both hands to the unguarded face of his attacker, his thumbs pressing immediately against his eyes. Hard. The grip on his neck loosened before breaking entirely, blood starting to pool around one of the man’s eyes.

The bandit lunged again and, this time, overstretched. He gave Loreon an opening, who tripped the man and circled behind to fall atop him. His hand grabbed for a nearby rock, and he brought it down on the back of his skull. Again, and again, until bone gave way to make a bloody pulp.

Content the man was dead, Loreon dropped his shoulders in exhaustion - the rock falling from his bloodied hand. He sat atop the body for a few seconds longer, before finally pressing himself upwards - and, finally, lifting Brightroar from his back. The clean Valyrian blade glistened in the moonlight, and he trudged toward the open doorway of the warehouse yet again. He made it through the door this time, before another man emerged from the shadows - this one, in only a few flashes of steel, was cut down in seconds.

The sound of another scuffle emerged from the back of the warehouse. Loreon followed the sound, the pitch black of the interior making it impossible to see much further than his extended hand. Finally, the source of the noise revealed itself as he came upon yet another broad-shouldered man grappling with a slender figure, trapped in his arms.

Rhaena twisted under the man's hold, her arm again igniting with pain, tempered enough by adrenaline and fear. She could no longer do anything but let out muffled cries, and each time, the ruffian's hand clamped harder across her face. She could feel where fresh bruises would form, and fear gave way to anger. Her body twisted and she brought a leg up, an attempt to kick the brute's knee but succeeded only in putting them both off balance. It was enough to loosen his hold on the princess and Rhaena used it to scramble a few feet away.

The man quickly recovered and caught her again by the shoulder. He wrapped one arm firmly across her chest holding her to him, the other again across her face, quieting her. His face, dripped with sweat and smelling of stale alcohol, pressed against Rhaena. “Don’t try running off again girl.” He breathed deeply, the noise unsettling. “Pretty thing like you can’t go to waste.”

Both froze at the sound and sight of a man entering the room. “Don’t go far.” He growled into her ear before pushing her to the side to approach the man directly. Enraged at the the threat this pissant man had hurled at her, she pulled her dagger at last and lunged at the man as he approached Loreon, distracted from anything else. She was too small to knock him over, but she caught him by surprise, the dagger plunged into his back below his shoulder. He grunted in response but Rhaena was already pulling her arm back and stabbing again, lower this time as the man pulled away, bent. He dropped to his knees as Rhaena stumbled backwards and caught herself on an elbow, the dagger plunged deep into the bandit’s back.

The disturbing sound of laboured, guttural breaths came from the figure on his knees. His gaze had fallen to the ground, and it was likely he never even saw the swing that cleanly separated his head from the rest of his body. The headless corpse remained upright for a few seconds more, before crumpling forward - blood pooling at the neck. “I think I’m supposed to say some words before executions, but…” Loreon spoke between heavy breaths of his own, only gradually finding his composure after the protracted earlier brawl. “I can never remember them.” With that, he set the tip of Brightroar against the ground, leaning against the lion-headed pommel for some momentary support. One of his cheeks had swollen slightly, his lip now held a deep gash, and his usually pristine hair was loose, and unkempt - rogue strands falling out of the practical man bun and down across his forehead. Regaining his breath, he leaned forward to lift the knife from the corpse’s back - extending it toward the girl, “I think this is -“, he cut himself off once he finally realised who was standing before him, lilac eyes meeting his own.


"Princess." She snapped back with a glare before reaching out to take her weapon back. She glanced at the beheaded body, as if to ensure he actually was dead. Her heart rate slowed back down and as her adrenaline fueled rage crashed, she crumpled in on herself. A wave of nausea nearly overtook her. The sacrifices, death, Melony, it all came rushing in again. She wanted to blame Loreon, his failure to save Aegon, but all she could do now was look up at him, small, afraid, and exhausted. And grateful. Gods, she had nearly gotten herself killed.

“There aren’t any more of them,” Keeno’s voice became the last dagger in the darkness, cutting through the awkward and intense silence the two found themselves in all of a sudden from his position in the doorway, “…I’d know. Lorelai was still cold and unconscious when I left her, so I need to get back to her. Follow, or don’t.”

His tone stayed low, but there was a softened edge to it, an undertone of sympathy to both after their sudden ordeal. With that, he turned on his heel, and walked back towards the entrance of the mine, where his new torch resided, the first one already exhausted.

Loreon spun to face the doorway in what was yet another surprise on this eve. Usually he liked surprises, especially when they were sprung by Kinvara. Tonight, though, they had all been solely horrible. “… that’s my sister’s man. Hells is going on.”, he asked no one in particular. And why was she unconscious?. He started to follow after Keeno, checking over his shoulder to see that Rhaena followed. “I thought you were my sister. What are you even doing here?” He ahem’d, finally making a point of her previous insistence, finishing his question with, “Princess.

“It’s Keeno. We have names, you know,” he said even as he walked away, hearing them scurry to follow, wondering to himself only two things:

How did this man survive Essos? And were they all very sure he was related to Lorelai?

Rhaena ignored the question as she stood and dusted herself off as if it would do anything to remove the grime of the road or the blood of the scuffle. None of this was making any sense at all. Lorelai here? That's why he had taken off with such haste? Who was this woman? She caught up to Loreon, though every bit of her body ached in the effort. There was no good answer to the impetuousness that had brought her here. "I suspected you thought to flee when you failed…me."

A tinge of regret crept in at his earlier teasing when she spoke. It had been a long day, but one in which she had lost a brother and a husband. Unusually among Westerosi, the point of one man being both didn’t evoke disgust or contempt in him - only a deeper regret. His lips pursed into the shadow of a sympathetic smile as they followed after Keeno. “…no, no, that’s not it.”, he sighed, “… and I can’t know why it didn’t work, but I am sorry. He was a good man, didn’t deserve what came to him.”, he said without actually knowing the boy at all, but it seemed like the sort of thing people said to one another after a loss. At least he knew the latter part was likely true - how could he have deserved what the poor fellows wrought? He opted not to let a silence linger as they walked, “But, no. I did not ride to flee. Only to clear my head, and… find Lorelai here. Haven’t spoken with her, not properly, in a while. We used to…”, he clicked his tongue. “Ah, doesn’t matter.” He divulged more than intended, perhaps. “But I don’t know what’s happened to her, only that if he was relaxed enough to leave her side, she must be well-enough.”

Keeno just stopped, abruptly, the sound of fire from the torch hitting air in a fiery whoosh as he did, illuminating his face as much as it did anything in that moment, and the restrained panic of his dark eyes, “She told me to see if I could find wood for a fire. I found some in the mine itself, but then I heard her scream like I’ve never heard her scream—I’ll understand if you’re not that familiar with her these days, but let me tell you, she’s the last woman I expect to hear scream for no good reason. By the time I got back to her, I got there just in time to catch her as she fell, her eyes were white as snow, and her body……”

His eyes fell, and instead of raise back to the man, Keeno simply turned and made his way down the rough ramp that had resulted from the floor collapse the first time Lorelai and he had trekked through the mine, “She was freezing cold, shivering, but she was completely dry and…well…does it feel cold to you? She woke up enough to realize I had her, and then she was out again. She hasn’t woken up…shit, she’s at that fucking tree again.”

Keeno dropped the torch at the opening to the great hollow of the mountain, and sprinted with the sound of chain and footsteps towards the standing Lorelai Lannister, touching the base of that great heart tree once again. Before he got close enough her free hand rose, palm out, towards him.

She said…something, but far as they both were now, Loreon and Rhaena wouldn’t have heard it. There was a low exchange between before her head turned, eyes opening, and saw the pair near the entrance. Even without hearing it clearly, there was little mistake in what word came from Lorelai Lannister in that moment, looking at the two surprise guests.


There was still a slight shiver to her body as she descended the rock outcropping that led to the heart tree in the center of the great hollow of the mountain, like a great hall within the very belly of the hill that had once been full of gold or silver, or just enough of both to warrant the mine, but not enough to warrant it’s continued use.

Her eyes were between the two as she rubbed her hands, exhaling into her cupped hands for warmth as she nodded to the two, “Princess, brother, Keeno started a fire over here. Come, just us.” Keeno passed behind her as she stopped to greet them with a slight chatter to her teeth even as she spoke, to throw some more wood that had been part of the mine when the floor collapsed, and a little wooden cart left behind he had smashed into enough pieces to be used for firewood. It was dry, but too much, and it seemed to burn hot and fast.

“We won’t have the fire for too long,” was all he said, as he sat next to it, back to his stoic silence.

Loreon was the first of the two to step forward, his eyes darting about the great cavern, illuminated both by the fire and the moonlight from the opening above. He hadn’t seen the like before, and certainly nothing had come close to this in his childhood exploration of mines. Instinctively, the adventuring spirit within him came to the surface. The bridge of rock that led to a sole weirwood as if it were a throne? Not likely by chance. “What is this, a Godswood?”

He brought his arms tightly across his chest, the flash of pain from his movements and the dull, thus far continuous pain in his bruised cheek, were both forgotten as his mind wandered. “…hardly the place for a tree to grow naturally, is it? Maester Luton used to spin stories about these…”, he moved past the small group at the fire to look more closely at the weirwood. “…of the children and their songs. He claimed they had something to do with our Godswood, in the Rock.”, a quick huff followed as he stood at the bottom of the rocky outcropping that led to the weirwood, turning back to face the fire and those assembled at it. “Then the Andals killed them all, and burned their trees.”, he concluded bluntly. “But not this one, mh?”

He meandred over to the fire. “Typical. I come to you for answers, and now I only have more questions.” His tone was half-amused, lighthearted as it often was - even if there was an underlying unease. He was supposed to be the one with secrets, what had Lorelai been up to?

He knelt at the fire beside his sister, his eyes of emerald-gold scrutinizing her out of concern more than any suspicion. “Keeno told us what happened.” He waited only a few seconds, not long enough for her to formulate an answer, before he prodded further. “… are you alright? Why are you even here?”

“Oh, did he?”

Lorelai’s head gave a quick snap to Keeno, her gold-flecked green eyes looking only at Keeno Sylhan, the kind of tiny smile that looked anything but actually happy on her pale pink lips, even as her body continued a slight shiver, though the teeth chattering seemed to ease next to the fire.

The man didn’t immediately look up, but instead, only slowly nodded his head for a few moments before finally looking up to face Lorelai’s gaze, “I did. Do you really blame me?”

That seemed to soften her immediately, her smile becoming warm as the fire they were next to, the husk in her voice deepening just a touch. “…no,” she said, softly. It made sense when she thought about it. What would the two think if Keeno led them to such a place, with her unconscious on the ground?

Any number of things. None were good. They didn’t know him like she did. “Princess,” she began, still looking at Keeno with that small smile, before her eyes shifted over to the younger woman, “it may be best if we get you back to the Rock. I’m certain Keeno could get you back safely.”

To Loreon she gave only a quick look, but a look he might recognize: it was the same kind of look she’d give him in their youth, something along the lines of, ‘later.’

Rhaena slowly took in the sight of the cavern and massive weirwood at the middle of it. It was enough to stop her in her tracks, she had never seen anything quite like it. Though she heard Loreon musing, his words passed over her. Stories from childhood filled her head and she recalled being told the ancient magic of this land was different than the magic of Essos and the Freehold. She closed her eyes, tried to feel if there was anything to it. It was in vain, there was nothing here any more than there was in any other godswood she had seen. Maybe one day, thousands of years ago, but it was surely gone. Dead.
Her eyes opened when Lady Lorelai spoke. Slowly she turned and took in the scene. Brother and sister reunited, there was a distance there that she had heard when Loreon spoke. But it was obvious to her they shared a closeness much like her and Melyssanthi had, or her and Aegon. Her lips trembled a little. She was so tired, returning to the Rock would make sense. But what had she accomplished coming out here, what peace would Casterly bring?

Her head dropped. "Lady Lorelai, thank you for the offer." She chewed at her lip and surrendered to fatigue over anger. "Lord Loreon, when you return," she emphasized when, "I'd like a word."
“Get home safely,” was all Keeno said as he stood, the concern in his voice more than evident; he hated leaving Lorelai normally. Now, however, he was even less comfortable with it than normal. “Both of you. Follow me, Princess.”

Once they were gone, Lorelai let out a deep sigh, and laid down on the stone and moss below, holding the parchments in her hand closest to Loreon up for him to take even as she lay down on her back, eyes drifting closed again. “Read.”

Loreon had recognised the look, which only served to further pique his interest. He barely registered the parting words from the princess as his mind raced the consider the possibilities of her being here - though, he did offer Rhaena a nod of simultaneous acknowledgement and farewell. His eyes now darted through the lines of various parchments, and he haphazardly flicked between the different items, devouring the information as quickly he could. Three-Eyed Raven, Children of the Forest, Ancient Magics… and an accompanying amateur sketch of the aforementioned raven. After a few minutes of silence, he bundled the parchments and scrolls together and set them loosely beside his sister with a huff.

“Quite the read.”, his gaze fell back upon the weirwood. He was sat next to Lorelai still, as he had been when quickly absorbing the reading materials. “… and all connected to this Great Other I’ve heard so much of from Lysara.” His tongue clicked a few times against the roof of his mouth in thought. First Lysara, and now his own sister? Was this a sign? His own vision remained fresh in his mind. His gold-flaked emerald eyes to Lorelai now as she lay beside him. He saw some of his own features reflected in her face, and they both had their fathers eyes. The shadow of a nostalgic smile started to play at the corners of his lips. They had used to spend hours in mines, talking about their futures and the adventures they’d have - but, neither had quite imagined these particular circumstances. The reality of the present - of the recent sacrifices, of the years he’d spend away from his family, of the coming darkness - soon wiped away the growing smile.

He let the silence linger a little longer. Where was he even supposed to start? He’d start with her, he finally decided. “So. We’re at an old Godswood, or something like, and you’ve been researching all of…”, his hands lifted at a few parchments, “… this. What’s going on with you, Lor, why is all this in your head?” Had a vision come to her, too?

“I flew, Loreon,” she stopped, for half a heartbeat realizing the utter sound of madness it must have been, before she continued, deciding not to care, “The bird came to me, and I flew. Above the Rock. Above the West. Past the Riverlands the North. Past the Wall, past endless forests shrouded in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived, to the curtain of green and blue and gold light at the end of the world, dancing in the infinite of the forever night’s sky…I saw the damned.”

Her cheeks burned as tears flowed again, her gold-flecked green eyes tightly shut as she saw it all again…and again, and again, and again, and again. “The dead and the damned, just standing, waiting to march on us, waiting to bring the long night back across the world. Where once there were Children and forever forests, now there was only ice and snow and death and darkness…he saw me. He didn’t know me, but he…he wanted to.”

She breathed, heavily, in, and out again, as the past week caught up to the future she saw, where she was found in the middle of the two tidal forces of fate, crushing her between them. “…if this is the last time we see one another, Loreon…I love you. You never wronged me. You never left me behind, you just…left,” she finished, opening her eyes to the moonlight and rock above.

“I’ll never be an adventurer. I’ll never be a hero…I’m just a girl who misses the love of her life. Go and survive, Loreon. Just make it out alive.”

It’s all any of us can do now.

He was quiet and still as she spoke, offering little by way of reaction - not to the tale of the dead she told, nor to the revelation that they may not see one another again. Everything she described fit with what Lysara had told him. The long dark was coming, after all - and if she was right about that, then maybe she was right about him, too. She continued to speak, but while he heard her, he was not listening. Not truly. His thoughts had already started to spiral.

He had sailed the Narrow Sea, explored a foreign continent and recovered Brightroar - and now, he knew that he was the Chosen of R’hllor. The Others, the Long Night, all of it was real. It had to be, what other explanation could there be for his sister’s vision? On this point, Loreon gave little thought to this beyond confirming what he believed to be his own role. Not once did the consideration of why his own sister had recieved such a vision cross his mind, nor did the meaning of any of what she saw. For Loreon, her vision only had one purpose - to prove what Lysara had told him, and to finally confirm in his mind that it would be his destiny to save Westeros from the coming evil.

He would be Loreon Lannister, the wielder of Brightroar, the Lion of Lannister and Hero of Westeros. His name would never die.

Seat of House Lannister

Light from the flames of a brazier flickered, reflecting in the eyes of deep purple. These were the unnerving eyes of Lysara - a woman, though petite, who stood taller than most men. Her long hair of jet black came to just above her waist, and she wore a translucent robe of burning orange with a blood-red dress beneath. Her figure was instantly recognisable, and had become an increasing controversy in the halls of the Rock as her following grew. What was about to happen would only further stoke the flames of the devout.

They stood atop Casterly Rock, at the peak overlooking Lannisport below. The skies above had darkened as daylight started to retreat and there was a calm wind in the air. The rest of the scene was anything but. On the edge of the Rock, seven wooden stakes had been erected, with bundles of straw at the base of each - and being tied to these were seven, bald men in robes of grey and black. Some bore the seven-pointed star knifed into the flesh of their forehead. These were Poor Fellows, those that had been unfortunate enough to have been caught after their assault on the royal troupe. Gathering in a semi-circle before this, a large crowd was assembled - a thorough mixture of both Westerosi and Essosi. At the forefront, still in his armor of polished gold, stood Loreon Lannister. Beside him, the Princess Rhaena.

It was only a few hours prior that Lysara had heard the pleas from Loreon to save the life of the ailing Aegon. She reluctantly agreed to try - but knew the boy drew closer to his last breath, and no visions had told her of the need to prevent such. It was another reason entirely that had driven her to agree.

“Lord of Light, look down upon us!”, Lysara began her prayer. Her words were loud, yet pleasantly melodic - entrancing, even. Those assembled fell quiet. “Yours are the stars that guard us in the night. Yours is sun that warms our days!”

A distinct unease lingered in the air, brought by the Westermen gathered to observe the sacrifice. Most had heard the prayers of Lysara in passing, but none had ever seen this - a human sacrifice, endorsed by their lord. Ser Olyvar Estren stood among them, his hand brought tightly around the hilt of his blade - not from fear of harm against his lord, though perhaps it wasn’t all too unlikely, but from habit. It was his clearest tell when uncomfortable.

“Lord of Light, look down upon the Prince Aegon Targaryen! Shine your light, and lead his soul from darkness! We beg our Lord to share his fire, and light a candle that has dimmed!”

Hobbling up to the side of Ser Olyvar came an elderly man, a veteran of no less than six and seventy winters. With his robes of brilliant, pure white and a seven-stranded belt of varying colours, this man was instantly recognisable as Septon Alfyn. His thick brows of grey had not been clipped for far too long, and it was a surprise that he was able to even see. The rest of his wrinkled face was bald - with a mouth crooked into a permanent frown, and a back that hunched forward from the weight of his own body. The man had known the last King of the Rock, was present for the births of all his children and remained a permanent fixture at Casterly Rock. “We must stop this, Ser.”, he hissed through what teeth remained. Olyvar said nothing in reply.

“From darkness, light! From ashes, fire! From death, life!”

The prayer by Lysara reached a crescendo, and the torchbearers were gestured to light their respective stakes. The sacrifice was to begin.

Princess Rhaena Targaryen had heard stories of the Red Priests and Priestesses, of the followers of the Lord of Light. Her belief, or lack thereof, mattered little at the moment it had been offered as one last hope. When Lord Loreon had insisted they had power to restore men to life, Rhaena would have agreed to nearly anything. And this? This was justice. These men were savages. Traitors. If she could not burn them herself she would watch them burn in offering and pray to whatever gods that would listen.

She knew others did not share her comfort with this. Even amongst her ladies, when she shared what they would attend this evening, they seemed aghast even if they did not openly speak against it. The Lord of Casterly Rock had proven himself so far, and she would see to it that he was rewarded when Aegon was returned to his health, though that was likely to be offered in the way of men and dragons than gold and jewels.

Standing tall, no matter that the pain in her arm had come alive again from insisting on changing into something she felt more appropriate for the occasion. Her women had helped her into the ceremonial armor that was meant to call up the memory of her grandmother. The black and red metal against the flames before her cast her as far older than her years, ferocious, nearly feral in her unabashed anger at seeing the men before her.

She heard the Septon approach. Rhaena had hoped that the man would show his face, before the torches could be set to the pyres, the princess stepped away from Loreon, towards the Red Priestess. In a clear voice, she called for a halt.

“Septon Alfyn.” Perhaps the man thought her to be taken with sudden reason. Perhaps he thought the Seven had heard his prayers. “Septon, you argued that these men could only be condemned by the Faith. Do your duty to the crown, and condemn these men to die.” When he did not immediately respond, she pantomined that perhaps he could not hear her and quickly closed their distance, her lips pressed to the old man’s ear. “Condemn them to death or I will have you burned for treason, you pathetic cunt of a man.”

The aging Septon stood firmly as the Princess gave her ultimatum. His body shook from the tremors of old age, his back could no longer bear the weight upon it, and his pains grew by the day. In this moment, none of that mattered. He moved forward to stand before the crowd, his steps small and labored.

“All of you-…”, he was racked by a cough as soon as he began, his voice struggling to find the power it once held. “… All of you were named in the Light of the Seven!” Gradually, he found his strength. “You were shown the Mother’s Love, and the Father’s Justice! Will you now spit on their memory?! Are you so eager to blaspheme!?”

Behind him, the Poor Fellows began to find some courage. Most had been muttering quiet prayers on their pyres, sweating profusely and awaiting the coming flame with terror - but behind Alfyn, they began to rally with hollers of abuse to the Princess.


They made a chorus behind the words of Septon Alfyn, who continued his appeal to the Westermen in crowd. “We must end this, and pray for forgiveness!”

“Ser Robin.” Rhaena watched with a growing rage at the chants coming from condemned men. But one kingsguard was more than sufficient for one pathetic septon. Rhaena would have done it herself, were it not for her arm. No, she would need to rely on her white cloak for some of this, it was his duty surely, charged to her command.

The Kingsguard had not been pleased to leave Prince Aegon’s side, but there was little he could do to protect the man anymore, especially not when the Princess was insistent on placing herself in this dangerous place. Robin Darklyn stepped forward, and though he knew what would be commanded of him, he waited for his Princess to speak it. He was a man of the Faith, seeing these men set to death in such heretical practices pricked at his conscience. But, he had sworn his holy orders to protect King Aegon and then King Aenys. He had promised his king to protect his children and he had failed. And the Poor Fellow’s attack had been brutal, beyond brutal, no matter his own private thoughts on such things. It was not his place to question.

“Bind him to a pyre and fetch me a torch. I will exact justice myself.” Rhaena turned back to the crowd, her voice raised again. “This man is a traitor, he is found guilty of treason in the eyes of man and dragon and will pay the price.” She ignored, with great effort, the insults lobbed at her. They would pay for it, soon enough.

Lysara stood quietly, patiently, her hands clasped together. She had watched the scene unfold from the sidelines, more than content to let the man dig his own grave - or in this case, build his own pyre. He had demanded her leave from Casterly Rock more than once, and she found his prattling and pathetic prayers to be insufferable. Now he would join his brothers on the pyre. She sensed his fear building as the Kingsguard dutifully - if reluctantly - marched toward him.

She chose this moment to approach, gliding toward him with her dress of burning reds and orange trailing behind her. She spoke lowly at first, taunting him alone. “You reek of fear, old man, but do not worry…” and now her voice was raised, taking control of addressing the crowd once again. “For the night is dark and full of terrors, and the flames will burn them all away.”

Several members of the crowd agitated as Darkrobin neared the Septon. The Lannister men-at-arms drew their blades halfway, and all eyes fell upon Loreon Lannister - waiting, no, expecting him to give an order to halt this. He was their defender, the Shield of Lannisterport and the West. Alfyn, for his part, called to him directly. “My lord, I held you as a babe - and your brother and sister, both! I have loved you, as the Mother does us all! Stop this! Stop HER!”, his feet moved to stumble backward a few steps, but by then the knight had already grabbed his arms. His struggle made him an object of pity to most. Alfyn writhed as much as he could in his advanced age, but could conjure no real resistance or strength. His speech fell from the powerful prayer only moments before into garbled begging and pleading.

In the crowd, Lord Westerling - a gruff man of dark hair, and the veteran commander of their armies, spat on the ground. Some had opened their palms to the pyres, standing in subservience to their Lord of Light, but most shifted on their feet, uncomfortable and unsure of what they were expected to do. What had become of Casterly Rock? Ser Olyvar Estren, the man who held Loreon as his own brother, broke from the mass of observers and hurried to his lord. “Give the order, brother.”, he whispered urgently. “Have them end this. It is too far.”

Loreon gave no response - his body fixed and unmoving, his eyes glazed with the clear reflection of burning flames. He was entranced, taken by a vision in the flames that had finally come to him. For years, he had gazed into the embers and seen nothing - but now, finally, the Lord of Light had revealed himself. It was mesmerising. Loreon saw himself holding Brightroar high, the valyrian steel of the blade covered with hot flames. He heard the cheers of a crowd below, shouting his name with adoration. He felt pride and heroism swelling within him. Lysara had told him, but he had never believed - not until now. It had become clear to him, clearer than anything before. He was the savior of Westeros - the one to be their champion against the coming darkness of the long night. He had been chosen by the Lord of Light.

Stuck in this trance, no order came to save the Septon or the Poor Fellows already on their pyres.

Rhaena watched the pleas go unanswered. She wasn't sure what had overtaken Lord Loreon, but it was sufficient that he would not interfere, even if an overt condemnation would have served her better. The septon was as pathetic as she had initially judged him. A dark grin, nearly a grimace, formed on her face and she flicked the hand of her good arm at Darkrobin, a command to finish what she had demanded of him.

The septon could do little but go limp beneath the Knight's strong grasp. His feet dragged in the dusty earth below him, scraping across small rocks. He looked frantically for anyone to save him, if not Loreon then where was Tytos or Lyman to see sense. Where were the proper lords of the westerlands to end this madness. His desperation was nearly enough to elicit a vicious laugh but the Princess suppressed it into a snarl instead. He was bound to a pyre with ease, the fight seemingly gone out of him.

Rhaena approached once he firmly lashed in place and Darkrobin had gone to secure the torch for her. She held it, the heat and flames licking at the air around her. If she closed her eyes she could nearly imagine it as Dreamfyre ready to set the man ablaze. Instead, she turned towards the Red Priestess, Lysara, and nodded that she was ready.

"Dracarys!" It was a command for herself and for the rest of the men to have their justice served. She touched the torch to kindling, watched it hungrily envelop the dry wood of the pyre. She wanted him to suffer but in his state she was certain he'd be dead of shock before truly feeling the flames blacken his skin and render fat from flesh. Rhaena pressed the torch to the man's chest, watched the pain overtake him, before at last, she felt strong arms on her, pulling her away.

"You will be devoured by it, Princess, come a few steps back." Darkrobin was in her ear, pleading with her to move so that he would not need to pick her up and risk injury or a greater scene. She obeyed, with great reluctance, for each step back her body urged her to lunge forward and spit at those who had wronged her so deeply.

The pained screams and agonied cries echoed across the mountaintop, finally breaking Loreon from his trance - immediately shocked by the sight of Princess Rhaena torturing the Septon he’d known from birth. Lysara, observing him, moved closer and set a hand on his arm. Her steady chant grew louder, and louder still.

“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”

Some of the crowd, those few followers of R’hllor among them, began to speak as one.

“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”

Loreon remained quiet, his eyes frantically darting from one pyre to the next. He felt the eyes of his nobles watching him, the presence of Olyvar beside him. Among this chaos, this frantic panic, it was Lysara who comforted him with the hand on his arm - and the vision began to flash in his mind once again. He calmed, and slowly, unsteadily, began to recite the chant.

“… from darkness, light. From ashes… fire. From death, life.”

Tytos Lannister was a tall, portly man. His belly round and his face soft, plump with red cheeks. The hair on his head had long started to recede, and his beard too was ever more patchy by the day - even if it did retain the golden blonde known to Lannisters. On his hand, a ring of solid gold moulded in the shape of a lion’s head sat on his ring finger - a sign that it’s wearer was the Castellan of the Rock, and second-most powerful man of the Westerlands. Many would say that it was he who ruled over the region, and they would not be entirely wrong.

It was Tytos who held the Westerlands together, assuring lords of Casterly Rock’s continued rule - and indeed, the scandals of his halls aside, their rule over the realm continued to be competent and steadfast. For those outside of the Rock itself, life had continued much the same as it had for the past four decades of Targaryen rule - with a generous programme of investment instituted by the late Lord Loren, his elder brother. Now he was left to clean up the mess made by his nephew.

It was this endeavour that had driven him to his latest act, as one of the Maester’s responsible for the treatment of Prince Aegon left his quarters. Tytos had been assured he was dying, that it would require an intervention from the Gods themselves to save the boy. Tytos wasn’t willing to leave his fate to the Gods. He would decide, and the boy would die. He had to die, if the widowed princess was to make a bride for his nephew, and a heavy dose with milk of the poppy would guarantee it.

His thoughts turned to his niece, the Lady Lorelai Lannister. Favored of Lannisport and the keeper of whispers. There was nothing she did not know, which meant she would be next. It brought him no pleasure to think of kinslaying, and of ending the life of the girl he held in his arms as she grew - but the fate of their family depended on him, not her, and she would surely discover his involvement with the death of Aegon eventually. Not to mention the threat she posed to his contingencies, his plans for ‘dealing’ with Loreon should it be needed. He had no choice, really. It was a necessary act, or at least, so he told himself.

Further scheming was interrupted by the hurried arrival of a courtier, yelling about the sacrifices currently taking place - an affair he had elected to remain entirely absent from. He would be cleaning this mess for months to come.

Rhaena trembled in place, anger and grief tearing at her, unsure which had more control. Melony Piper had been in Lannisport already; she had rushed to the princess’s side as soon as she had been found and told of their unexpected arrival. None of the three ladies could provide their princess any comfort beyond their presence. They huddled together, too young to have to know such anguish. Hope from the sacrifice had been quickly dashed. Men had burned but the Red Priestess’s god had done nothing. Aegon was dying still, more quickly than before. He would die that night.

There was no time, not even on dragonback for their family to reach them. Poor Melyssanthi, her grief would surely erupt in an anger like Rhaena felt boiling just beneath the surface. Viserys, who would now bear the weight of being heir. And the little ones, the ones who had looked up to Aegon with awe. Her father, she tried to empathize but could not stop her anger from tainting that either. The Faith and the Poor Fellows struck their blows but only because he had denied her Dreamfyre. Were it not for that Aegon would be alive and the pious men just burned corpses outside Oxcross instead of a few on top of the Rock.

“Keep him on milk of the poppy, maester, allow him the peace I am denied.” Her voice was raw, rough. “And have word sent to Dragonstone. My father, your king, must be told that his son and heir has been murdered most callously by the Faith we have compromised with for too long.” And if he does not act, I will, again, and far more than a handful of men will burn for it. With Melyssanthi and their dragons they could burn a path through an army. They could travel all the kingdoms, purging the land of the Poor Fellows. Scorched earth for any who harbored them. Perhaps they would even burn the Starry Sept and have their dragons rip the High Septon limb by limb.

Her women tried to place hands on her shoulders or arms in comfort but she shrugged them off. “A part of me will die with him, one of three has been taken.” Destiny had been robbed of them and any who held responsibility for it would pay.

Rhaena, first born of the first born of the Conqueror, crawled back into bed with Aegon, the boy who would have been king. She cradled his head, silver hair damp with sweat, against her bosom, and wept silently until the last, ragged, breath left his battered body.

“This is stupid.”

She said nothing.

“…I told you those Red Priests are dangerous.”

Still, she said nothing. In fact, truth be told, Lady Lorelai Lannister had said very little for nearly the entire day. She broke her fast in near silence, but for a greeting to her protector, Keeno Sylhan. At midday she spoke to the Old Man, the Crone, the Child, and the Maiden. The Old Man warned her about the heir’s death. The Maiden warned her about the Red Priestess and the sacrifice. The Child warned her about Faith Militant finding ways into the city, smuggled over land and by sea.

The Crone patted her hand and told her to watch her uncle. Other than a perched brow, Lorelai had said very little.

During the lead-up to the evening, Lorelai said nothing.

All the while, Keeno had said more words in a single day than he had said, altogether, in months. The Red Priestess. Burning people. Sacrifice. R’hllor. Don’t trust them. They can’t be trusted. They should be careful, even her brother, Loreon, could fall to, as Keeno so eloquently put it, ”their fiery bullshit.”

When Lorelai watched them burn the men, she sighed. When some of those present shouted in damnation and protest, she said nothing. When she watched them burn Alfyn, tears ran down her cheeks, but still, she said nothing.

Keeno had not been so quiet, always leaning into her, whispering to her, “No way your brother stops this. He’s bought into that witch’s lies. Probably thinks he’s the next R’hllor, himself.”

Part of her wanted to say something, to tell Keeno to stop. But why, she questioned herself? Because he knew the Red Priests far better than she did? He proved that when he leaned over and whispered to her that this was a farce, anyway, apparently only the blood of kings could buy the lives of kings.

“They’re all slaves, all the Priests. They work in a caste system like any other.”

Aegon was doomed to die. She failed to tell Keeno about the Old Man’s warning. It didn’t seem like it mattered, one way, or another, the heir to the Iron Throne was a dead man. Yet she had never seen Keeno so agitated. She was the only one in Westeros who knew what he had been; a Sorrowful Man. A master assassin. Had been? Still was? Could one just stop being such a thing, she wondered?

Could she just stop being a Lannister of Casterly Rock? At the moment, as the tears fell down her cheeks, she seriously contemplated the question. By the time it was done, Keeno didn’t move from her side, but she felt his restlessness all the same. She had been in the very, very back. Shrouded in cloak and hood. Most seemed to miss her, or not quite realize who she was. The cloak and hood were, after all, neither crimson nor gold, but an old gray. Something she wore to sea from time to time.

Yet one man, above all, found her. “This was ill done.”

The smile she gave was all that remained after such a day, Lord Westerling would simply have to make do with what was left of her, “I am sorry, my Lord.”

“Oh?” He sounded surprised, but not genuinely surprised—there was a harsh mockery to his tone, “Was this your doing, Lorelai?” The look she gave him was enough to make him chuckle. “I did not think so, and the tears on your face would certainly suggest otherwise…you know the conversations that will be had. I have heard the King’s…network, it—”

“—the Lord’s, Lord Westerling. I would not see you harmed for insinuating there was another King while there are Valyrian dragonriders full of anger and bitterness wallowing in their tragedy about.” His awkward silence was enough for her to simply sniff at one of her tears, and continue, “And let us not pretend those ‘conversations’ are not already being had tonight, Lord Westerling. We have always been very honest with each other.”

“…my oldest is six and ten, he is young, but…”

She didn’t cut him off this time. He just stopped talking when he saw the look of pure pain she gave him, both of them thinking of Julien Crakehall. “Thank you, my Lord. I know you mean well. I know some of you hope to take me from Casterly Rock, to protect me.”

Lorelai heard nothing but that three-eyed raven, now. Caw. Caw.


She sniffed again, shaking her head, slowly, draining the sound from her ears. “There is no protecting me from this, Lord Westerling.” Or anything else. “Go home, good man. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

When he was gone, she looked over to Keeno, who simply stared at her. “Let’s go inside.”
It was the softest, gentlest, thing she had heard him say all day.

Casterly Rock
The Seat of House Lannister

Casterly Rock loomed before them, an answer to their prayers, something to give the princess hope. It had been hell, several times over, and the young Targaryen had no time to make sense of it. Her time on the road since Oxcross had seen her sob uncontrollably then shift into stony, vacant stares. Alayne and Samantha had suffered minimal injuries, physically at least. Out of the trio of women, Rhaena had suffered the most, the side of her face was bruised horribly and it seemed likely her arm was broken. Large bruises had formed across her chest and torso. She winced whenever she moved.

Rhaena could not recall the events, or at least, struggled to recall them in order. There were flashes that would overtake her, freezing her in place or waking her when sleep briefly visited her. Aegon, unmoving before her. When Lannister men had arrived she had wailed, mistaking them for Warrior's Sons and not their saviors. A knight, blood splatter on his armor and face, had gingerly lifted Aegon before a maester had begged them not to. It was hours before they left the battle torn road, only once the maester was certain the heir to the iron throne was stable enough. Most of the Poor Fellows who attacked them were dead. Some had managed to flee. Others were corralled into a prison line to be escorted back to the Rock for judgment. Rhaena had screamed for them to be burned alive, forgetting that Dreamfyre was not with her. Her voice remained hoarse and rough.

The prince was unrecognizable. The maester kept him sedated with copious amounts of milk of the poppy, necessary, he explained, to keep the young man still for the remainder of their journey. Aegon's face was swollen, even if he had awakened Rhaena wouldn't have been able to tell. He was bruised and bloodied, his skin battered with angry purple splotches and red gashes. Worse was the giant gash along his side. It wept, no matter how the maester tried to bandage it. They all tried to hide their concern from the princess but even she knew enough to know an infected wound was a grave danger to any man. She feared for the worst and cursed her father's name for leaving them defenseless.

Had their escort arrived any later, surely they would all be dead. Ser Robin's relief was palpable. To lose the heir under his protection would have driven the man to suicide. More than luck had been on their side by the way the men talked of how they had been dispatched towards the village.

Ser Olyvar Estren had been afforded comfortable lodgings within Casterly Rock. Not large and with only spartan decoration but for him, it was enough. It was early morning still, with streaks of sunlight only just starting to pierce through the solitary window - the birds beginning to sing their early songs. After a quick splash of water to his face, he gave himself a once-over in the cracked mirror. Between his sharp jawline, straight-nose and dirty blonde hair, he cut a handsome enough figure - even if he gave pitifully little attention to his appearance. Good enough, he figured. Olyvar grabbed for the studded leather doublet, the same he’d had for at least five winters now, and tied the sheath that held his longsword about his waist. He was ready to face the day.

Winding his way through the many corridors and halls of stone within Casterly Rock, he took his time to reach the great hall. He liked where his room was - just beside the servants' lodgings. Here, where the Rock still felt like the Rock, like it was when he was a child. Before they returned from Essos. He had sworn his blade to Loreon Lannister on his sixteenth nameday, and been with him ever since - including throughout all the travels of Essos. They had seen wonderful and terrible things together, undertaken feats worthy of song and seen half the world. Truly, he loved Loreon as his own brother - and that was precisely why he worried for him, more than most.

As he neared the great hall, the thick smell of fragrant spiceflower and sandbeggar oak began to fill his nostrils. Exotic incense candles were burned day and night, both to remind Lord Loreon of his days across the narrow sea and, perhaps more importantly, to cleanse the smells of the night's activities. Drawing closer, the scent of incense was joined by the sight of men and women laying on makeshift beds from large, velvet and silk pillows. They were laid about the hallways wherever they could find comfortable space - some warming near fireplaces, some laying in the arms of whomever their companion at that time happened to be, and others only starting to recover the litres of wine consumed the night before. ‘A Lyseni whorehouse’, the Castellan of the Rock had decried it - though, there was far more than just Lyseni. Olyvar wagered those from every corner of Essos now called the Rock home.

Finally reaching the great hall, he pushed open the great doors of dark oak. The doors that were intricately detailed, enamelled with gold and jewels - while carvings in the wood depicted the great lions of lannister, proud images of Casterly Rock and the stories of Lann the Clever. The scene within hardly matched those ancient, proud doors.

Servants scrubbed furiously at stains of wine on the stone floors and dornish carpets, yet naked men and women lay about the tables - many in the arms of one another. Where some were clothed, they wore translucent, silk robes that clung to their bodies and accentuated their figures. The ancient portraiture and artworks of House Lannister that proudly adorned the walls for generations had been long taken down, replaced by maps of the continent beyond the narrow sea and foreign artworks. Plates of armor were thrown about the ground from a display by the resident mummer troupe. The stinging fragrance of incense, sweat and wine smothered him. Yet despite this chaos, there was one notable absence that Ser Olyvar immediately picked out - Lord Lannister. His eyes picked out an olive-skinned man with hair of ocean blue, with golden robes and similarly golden jewellery adorning his face. This was Xhondo, a beast tamer from Tyrosh and friend of their Lord, there was no doubt.

“Xhondo. Our Lord Lannister - have you seen him?”, he asked on his approach. Xhondo’s eyes were glazed with the relaxing effects from the milk of the poppy.

“The lion… has left for his quarters.”, he managed to answer - barely, but it was enough.

With a curt nod of thanks, Ser Olyvar made his way over the piles of cushions and intertwined flesh to the more peaceful quarters of Loreon Lannister, the Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. Two guards were posted outside the open door, giving a nod of recognition to Ser Olyvar as he approached.

“What do you think, is too much?”, a smooth, masculine voice from within echoed. “I want to suggest divine without actually wearing it.”

“No. The gold will be louder in the light.”, came the reply in the purring, softly spoken tones that could belong only to Kinvara, the lover of Loreon Lannister. The pair had met in Pentos, not even a year into Loreon’s great expedition. If Olyvar remembered proper, she was from a once-wealthy mercantile family that fell destitute through some scandal or other. He had always been suspicious of her intentions to begin, and to an extent remained so - but even he had to admit, their love seemed as true as any.

Entering the scene, Loreon Lannister was in the process of trying outfits for his ‘Golden Triumph’ soon to be held in Lannisport - a lavish display of Brightroar, and other treasures and riches brought back from across the narrow sea. It had been near a year in planning, and was finally set to begin in the coming days. For Loreon himself, even with the dark eyeshadow and tattoos across his hands - he still looked every bit a Lannister. Perfectly pale skin that glistened in the light, straight hair of true gold that fell to just below his shoulders, and a lean, athletic build. He looked more like a statue, or portrait, than a true man. As for Kinvara - she was perhaps one of the few that matched his beauty. Warm, hazel eyes were complimented by tanned, freckled skin - her petite form covered with an unusually modest dress of pure white, cut short at the ankles and with the arms exposed.

“Olvyar”, Loreon turned to his sworn sword with a familial smile. “What do you think?” He wore a suit of entirely golden armor, with the faces of roaring lions as shoulder plates. A slim white cloak was bundled loosely over his shoulders, falling behind his back - it had a delicate, golden trim. The sworn sword could only give a huff of amusement in response as he folded his arms across his chest, relaxing against the doorway.

“Something amuses you?”, the smile on Loreon’s lips faded, though his tone remained good-natured. His attention darted occasionally to one of the myriad servants fussing over his outfit. Everything had to be perfect.

“It is amusing, isn’t it?”, Olyvar brought his hands from his chest to open his palms, gesturing at the wider room. “All of this.”, a nod then to the balcony that overlooked Lannisport below. “Dressing up for them, parading about the streets, playing at being a God.” The whole idea of a ‘Golden Triumph’ had seemed unnecessary to Ser Olyvar from the start.

“Playing?”, the usually light-natured tone from Loreon fell then, as did the shadow of a smile still left in the corners of his lips. “I’m not playing. This is not a game.” There was no hint of jest in his words as he took a few steps toward the knight, his emerald green eyes locked intently with those of his sworn sword. Olyvar waited, expecting his lord to burst into laughter - but it did not come. He bowed his head in reply, “As you wish.” Could his lord truly believe the words he spoke? Olyvar hoped not, and concern flashed across his eyes.

Loreon seemed content at that, the tension immediately breaking as he spun around on his heel, throwing off the white cloak. “Something with more gold - and have the banners now been laid out in the streets? They hadn’t last night.” One of the many servants confirmed they had, and the discussion carried on. Loreon, whilst few could call him the most attentive lord, did have a tendency to fixate over the minor details of something he cared for, and he cared for the Golden Triumph. Almost more than anything.

Ser Olyvar took a breath, and moved away from the door to the dressing room to join the two guardsmen outside. His day had begun.

The world had been dark when Lorelai Lannister rose and left the Rock. The streets were quiet pre-dawn, near empty as Lorelai and her escort moved. Sometimes their trip took a short time, sometimes a longer time. Rarely was Lorelai’s route the same from one day to the next. That would have been an error in judgment and security. Wes was no Knight; he was a killer. The man was tall, ribboned in muscle, with lighter skin that got dark, fast, with too much sun. He was excellent at his job exactly because of his former profession of assassin across Essos and the eastern coast of Westeros. He had come to the shore of the Sunset Sea to disappear. Her whisperers had discovered him, and she had offered him a role.

To her surprise, he took it. In the four years since, he had become one of the precious few she trusted. Even if the Rock was filled with famed fighters, she knew Wes could hold his own with any of them. She had seen the men fight, or rather, she had seen a blur and then heard the bodies hit the ground. She accused him of blood magic, and he had laughed at her. This morning, his dark eyes were at every window, at every roof, at every corner. But, as most mornings, nothing was there.

Lannisport had decided Lorelai Lannister was one of their favorites. Even her whisperers admitted as much; there was rarely a bad word said about her from anyone. The worse it got, she was told, was one of the pot shops at the southern side of the city, run by women who looked to gossip. And, according to the report, Lorelai wasn’t alone. Any pretty, younger woman was a potential target. Honestly, at her age, Lorelai could understand. And it was nothing even half as bad as her own mother had said about other women.

She spent a few hours at the docks and the Admiralty House. She checked barrels and chests, double-checking the rolls made by the overnight dock master. Between the dock-master and storeroom, there were a few hands with access. Yet it had been over two years since they caught Young Irv stealing from a chest that had a bad lock. Nothing, and no one, had done anything of the sort since. There were easier opportunities for men like Irv to skim in other storehouses in the city. Lorelai had garnered a certain reputation.

She stayed just long enough for the pre-dawn meet between captains setting sail. A few trips to Oldtown, a few to King’s Landing, one to Braavos, and five to the Arbor. “Five?” She had asked, not sure she heard the number right. Everyone turned to the back of the room—it was rare Lorelai said anything at the meetings. Let alone ask a question.

“Wine demands from the Rock.”

Rarely was she called Lady or M’Lady in the Admiralty House. She was Lor, or Lorelai, or if strangers were around, Lady Lorelai. The captains liked their nicknames and informality in the Admiralty House; outside of it they were captains, with all the pretense and discipline that required to do correctly and not suffer fools, the greedy, or greedy fools. Inside, they were just a group of men who had been too long to sea, comparing their days at sea, jealous of those spending more than a week home in Lannisport.

She stopped at the North Silver Street Counting House on the way back to the Rock from the docks. The cool darkness of pre-dawn spring was exaggerated by chilly winds as the windy season drew its breath onto Lannisport for the past month. Somehow, it did little to affect the fog, which seemed ever present at the docks but by the time she was all the way to North Silver Street, the sun had started it’s dawn, and the streets had taken a pink glow to them, burning the fog away from the cobblestones and the building filed neatly up and down the city. She did little at the Counting House but take messages and speak to Darwyn. He muttered under his breath about something, and she wished him a fair morning…to which he chuckled, bitterly. His apprentice, Heath, was half his age and had left the Citadel to tend to a sick mother who died a year ago. Lorelai had been at the funeral, Heath had never forgotten it. ‘My mum,’ he had said, with pride, ‘a real Lady of the Rock came to pay respects. I’ll tell my kids of that, they’ll tell their kids of that.’ She gently reminded him he needed to HAVE a wife, and HAVE children first. He simply sighed at the reminder.

This morning, however, she had something special for him. “This,” she said, sliding a badly drawn black bird with three eyes onto his small desk in the corner. “Ringing any of your bells?”

His face was twisted in puzzlement. Finally, his head shook, “I’m sorry, Lady Lorelai, but no. Would you like me to dig around for you?”

“Please, send it to the Citadel if you have to. Anything you spend on riders I’ll repay, so don’t be shy about it.” That seemed to perk him up. She was nearly to the door by the time she saw the shadow pass in front of it. Just a casual walk across the door of the Counting House…that had half a dozen guards around it and Wes outside, plus the other five of her escort. That meant one thing: a shadow of a whisperer. When she stepped outside and closed the door behind her, Eustace was there, a tall and boney man with a middling merchant’s garb. He dressed differently every day. She’d even seen him in purples and laces and gold-cloth, once. His hair was uncut, puffed out, gray and white, his pronounced chin sticking out even further than normal.

He had beady, mean eyes, but he had never been anything but true with her. “Good morning, fair Lady.” He said with a stiff bow of his head, and handed her the small roll of parchment with such a smooth quickness and precision, you would’ve missed it if you blinked. She read it as she was helped onto the horse, nodding to Wes, who had been staring at her. “Fast. Let’s go.”

It was near mid-morning by the time she returned through the Lower Gatehouse that led to the streets of Lannisport. It took her and Wes some quick walking and a quick stop in the lower level in which she had the Maesters stored for the night to let them sleep, telling the guards to gently wake them, before heading up.

“Ser Olyvar,” she greeted the man as she passed, a honeyed tone, walking to the middle of the room and leaving the scent of lavender and rose water in her wake. Loreon got a bright, but less warm, tone. Or maybe it was the words, less than the tone: “The heir to the Iron Throne is either seriously wounded or dying after a confrontation with the Poor Fellow near Crakehall. I dispatched a sizable escort to retrieve them, and they near. I had every Maester within a reasonable ride come here overnight. Most are here and being awoken now. Some are still arriving, our own Maester has been alerted and his quarters are prepared to receive the Prince.”

She paused, before thinking to add: “His name is Aegon. Princess Rhaena, his intended, and some of her ladies are coming as well. I’ve had rooms set up for all of them near my own.” That was noteworthy, as no one from Loreon’s guests were housed near her. The entire floor was her mother and her, and a few ladies in waiting. “That’s all,” she finished, before smiling brightly to Kinarva, “Good morning,” she said with warmth, before starting out of the room as quickly as she had come in. Wes was just…there, as he always seemed to be. “Make sure my Uncle is told immediately.”

Rumors out of Casterly Rock, of the strangeness of the returned lord and the wildness he brought with him had originally excited Rhaena. She had heard of the wild beasts that now wandered the castle halls and courtyards. She had hoped to see the wild zorses, the lions, perhaps he would even have a troop of little Valyrians. Now, as they had been settled into well-appointed chambers, she cared for nothing except to see her brother. Her friend. Her arm had been set, the Maester who saw to her was pleased with it being a simple break. It pained her, but she had nearly become numb to the persistent pang in it. He had given her a small amount of milk of the poppy but she had pushed it away.

It took much begging, but at last, she was led to where they had placed Aegon. The room was large, and though they burned herbs, the smell of sickness was already present,permeating the air. Maesters seemed to fill the room, some stopped and stared as she made her way towards the bed. They bowed their heads in respect before returning to their trays of metal instruments, of poultices, of stark white bandages. He looked so small.

His chest rose and fell slowly, the movement barely perceptible. She felt a hand on the shoulder of her broken arm, fingers wound through her good hand. Samantha and Alayne had been sent to her. They said nothing, but their presence gave her enough strength to not drop to her knees with silent sobs. The young woman’s face, marred but the bruises yellowing now, crinkled up in grief. No noise escaped, her tears had long since run dry. Her head dropped, Samantha’s hand moved to rub her back softly, reassuringly.

After several minutes of unmoving silence, Rhaena took a few steps forward. She gave one look to the maester that was bent over the bed, inspecting the gash on the prince’s side, and then crawled into bed on the opposite. She was afraid to disturb him, afraid that even the lightest touch would pain him. And so she sat curled towards him, her broken arm cradled against her and the other outstretched, barely brushing against his silver hair.

Loreon didn’t make an effort to stop his sister as she turned to leave, having promptly delivered her information. He’d always meant to set aside time for her, but things had a habit of getting in the way - or at least, that’s what he told himself. He knew the truth was deeper than that, but he wasn’t brave enough to face it, to face the regret he still felt for leaving her when he left for Essos. They were so close, once, and in many ways still were - but it was different, he was different. There was so much he needed to say to her. One day, he’d find the courage. But not today.

The following hour went in a flash as advisers made their way to him, giving constant updates and offering input whether it was asked for or not. It was in these moments he found himself most overwhelmed. Now, he was striding at pace through the halls, making his way to the maester’s quarters in which the royal siblings were held. He hadn’t been there to meet them at the gate, consciously staying clear to let the assembled maesters work. It was only as he neared the room that he realised he still donned his ceremonial plate.

“Erwin”, he addressed his Captain of the Guard as they walked. Ser Erwin Vikary was headed toward the unkind side of his forties, and still bore the scars of his battles with the forces of Harren the Red. “Dispatch my cousin Cerion with fifty men to Oxcross. I want the wretches involved on gallows.” The veteran only grunted in agreement. “And send word to the watch. I want the guard doubled for as long as the prince and princess are here.” Word would spread of the royals arrival quickly throughout Lannisport no doubt, and Loreon wanted to anticipate any unrest from the poor fellows within the city walls - and, crucially, to ensure nothing would upset his upcoming Golden Triumph. “And of those in the dungeons?” The Lannister force sent to relieve the royal party had returned with a handful of poor fellows. “Oh. Have the-“

Loreon was silenced by the sight that greeted him within the maester’s quarters. The prince, Aegon, lay still - his skin a deathly pale. The sheets below his body were stained a dark red, and a bucket of bloodied bandages sat near him. The heavy smell of blood hung in the room. But it was not this that shocked him - no, he had witnessed death before. It was the princess, lay beside him stroking his hair. He imagined if she were Kinvara, and Aegon him. “…hells.”, he whispered in the doorway.

“Seven, to be exact,” she added, as she appeared from behind her brother as casually as his own shadow might have, her slender body in crimson silk taking up the other side of the open doorway. “Those primarily responsible will not be caught by the men you sent—I fear they’re already on their way to King’s Landing.”

Her voice was lower, slower, the warmth of her heart evident by the pain she wore as she watched the two dragon siblings suffer. Her green eyes stayed on the two siblings a moment longer, before shifting like shadow over gold, to her own brother, that hidden little smile he had seen so much so many years ago making a reappearance to him, now, “we have a chapter of the Warrior’s Sons here in Lannisport, though, fortunately, they are the smallest of the chapters in Westeros. The watch can manage them, but you’ll want to close most of the city gates but one or two, and allow not a single Poor Fellow or Warrior’s Son in beyond those already in the city for your parade.”

Then the ghostly smile was gone as she looked back into the room, her voice reduced to a whisper meant for him alone, “This will not end well. For them, and I fear, for you. I’m glad you’re back, I’m glad you went. I’m just sorry you came back now, to this,” she said, not just meaning what was going on inside the room before them. Fear forced her forward, to sniff a sharp breath, and lean over to him. She hugged the side of him closest to her, her face against his upper arm, took a memory of his warmth and scent, and tried to smile again.

Nothing came, but that whisper, again, “Remember, Loreon…we always had an escape plan, for every adventure.” I still do.

Time passed, though the princess had no sense for how much. Aegon's eyes did not open, he did not stir except for the occasions where his muscles twitched in response to some unseen stimuli. The learned men talked in whispers but Rhaena would not have heard them even if they screamed. She tried to pray to the Seven but images of the Poor Fellows filled her mind and her fist would clench, sending a wave of pain up her. Instead she silently called upon the ancient gods of Valyria to somehow return Aegon to her.

A hand jolted Rhaena from her silent prayers. She blinked rapidly, her eyes struggling to focus. When was the last time she had slept for longer than an hour or two? She twisted, a poor choice, to see who had laid hands on her and relaxed at seeing Alayne. "The maester wishes to speak to you…and Lord Loreon is here as well." Her companion lifted her head and nodded slightly in the direction of the door. Rhaena looked him over, younger than her father but not by much. Looking at him, she briefly wondered how many of the stories were true. But then her pain quickly reminded her it did not matter.

She sat up, Alayne helped her move off the bed, her heart threatening to rupture at leaving Aegon's side. She could not turn back to him again or she feared she would not leave the bed until her brother did. The maester bent his head and whispered briefly in her ear. He placed a consoling hand on her shoulder, but Rhaena pulled away. Her eyes glazed over at what he told her, the silver-haired princess shook her head with a tremble. Her lips parted as if to speak but nothing came out. She walked away, to meet the Lord Lannister, the maester behind her in confusion of what to do.

"Lord Loreon." It was a simple statement, not a greeting, only recognition that she knew who she stood before, who's castle she had invaded with tragedy. What could she say? A hundred demands screamed from within. One demand called to her the loudest, her ears hummed with rushing blood. Justice delivered by fire. She'd burn Oxcross, she'd burn all the villages and castles that had even sneered at them. She'd burn Casterly Rock if it would appease the gods and give Aegon a long life.

The maester's words roared back to life in her head and the demands that she wanted to shout were washed away in a wave of fresh grief. "He will die here, in a day, maybe two. There is no hope." Rhaena felt her legs beg to buckle beneath her. She turned her head up to watch the lion lord's reaction. Against the grief, against the danger and fear, she fought with every last reserve to be the dragon, not the girl.

Instinctively, the man bent a knee slightly and offered an arm to the struggling girl - for it was a girl that Loreon saw before him. Despite all tales of magical blood, the command of dragons and unrivaled power, he saw that Rhaena Targaryen was as vulnerable as any man or woman - though whether or not she’d admit that was a different matter. In his eyes at least, it endeared her. “Princess.”, he spoke softly through a sympathetic smile. “You needn’t stay up on my account, please. I only wanted to…”, his eyes drifted to the crippled Aegon lay on the bed behind her as his words fell quiet. He pursed his lips apologetically, “I am sorry for this attack, and I promise that these disgusting fanatics will be caught. Justice will come for them.”

His eyes glanced to his sister momentarily, and then back to Rhaena. “You are welcome in my halls for as long as you need - and… some of your pets will arrive soon, I’m told. I will have them brought here, if you like.” His words were earnest, if uncertain. This was yet another moment that life had not prepared him for.

She hesitated only a moment before gripping the arm offered her, her fingers gripped deeply through fabric to the muscled arm beneath. His promise was empty. What good would it do them now to care about the zealotry that had been allowed to flourish in his land. Nevermind that his men had saved her life, and that of her ladies. A sickening realization settled in that no matter her love for them, she would exchange their life for his, hers for his. If only Melyssanthi were here, there would be one who understood.

“The ones who were brought here alive. I’d burn them myself if only I had Dreamfyre. By royal decree they are not to be hanged but burned for their crimes.” She bit at her lip, stifling a sob, willing herself to composure. “And if you have any other healers, I want them brought to me now.” She broke, her voice cracked. “These worthless maesters offer only death and pain.” Anger flared in her eyes, her hand pulled at Lord Lannister’s arm as if to force him to his knees before her. “They say you have been across all of Essos and her mysteries, surely you have something.”

There was a flash of confusion in eyes of gold and emerald as the princess pulled at his arm, his brows furrowing. His footing held steady, and in that split second, the natural arrogance born in one praised daily as a hero broke through the surface. He knelt for no one. Then, as quickly as those emotions had flared, they passed. His brows relaxed, a warm and sympathetic smile tugged at the corners of his lips. Slowly, he set his other hand atop hers, and leaned forward - his words falling to little louder than a whisper. “All you have heard is true, and I… may have something for your husband, our prince.”

He hesitated as he voiced the thought. Lysara - the Red Priestess that had accompanied him to Casterly Rock - was an unpopular figure at best, and a damned heretic at worst. The Septon had insisted on her removal more than once, not to mention the protests of his uncle. Every time, Loreon had refused. He’d seen her power across the Narrow Sea, and he knew the value of her as an ally. Could she save the dying prince? She’d performed similar feats before, but he’d be lying to say he was confident of success - but as he imagined if it were Kinvara who were injured and not Aegon, he knew that he would turn to Lysara also. Who was he to deny it to the girl, desperate to save the one she loved? He understood. Even if the rest of Casterly Rock wouldn’t.

Lowering the arm that she gripped and lifting his hand from hers, he affirmed the thought. “Yes. There is something - someone - we can go to. I’ve seen her power, and she may yet save him, but we must be quick.” He turned on his heel to leave, hastily walking down the hall. “Come if you wish to, else I will return with the one we need.”

Ready for review.

the lannisters will be reborn
@Hey Im Jordan Nathaniel god help us and Orion are both approved!
@Fabricant451 Himani is approved!

IC is posted, and we're off. Feel free to post whenever you like from now. As I've said, there is no posting requirement and we're aiming for this to be a relaxed, long-term roleplay.

Let's have fun!

@Hey Im Jordan Noah is 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝

The Assembly Hall, September 2024
Start of Term


There was a dark tempest raging in the skies above Hawthorne Academy. The skies, always kept clouded from sunlight to accommodate their vampiric students, were darker than usual - and only the soft glow of orange and yellow from the windows of Hawthorne provided light. Even the stars above had gone quiet. The downpour of rain flogged against the walls and lashed the windows, even the ancient magic woven into the mortar and tempered into the glass unable to drown the noise entirely. Thunder rumbled menacingly in the clouds above, occasionally striking the highest towers of the Academy with tempestuous wrath. It made for a heavy backdrop for the arrival of students in what was already a year more anticipated than most. The increasing disappearances and thefts of ancient artifacts had become widely discussed news, making the front page for every issue of the ‘Daily Oracle’ (the major source of supernatural news) for a month at least. There has been a new theory every day, but so far, no answers.

Noon was fast approaching as the students gathered within the assembly hall for their annual induction. The morning had been left free for the students to gradually arrive and deposit their things with the arrivals office, as well as to find their friends for their long-awaited reunions. The hall itself was dramatically large, with lit fireplaces lining the walls on either side, and floating candelabras above, providing light and some much needed warmth to many of the drenched students. The pleasant hum of orchestral music subtly filled the air, made from magic no-doubt. At the front of the hall sat the professors, all behind one large table of dark oak, with a podium for the Headmaster before it. There was the newest arrival, potions professor Ophelia Evergreen, who had managed already to attract rumors that she and professor Eller were together. The closeness with which they were sat did little to alleviate this. Gideon, the artefacts professor, and his colleague the professor of history, Viktor, were engaged in lively discussion - while Silas de Lavigne, an ancient vampire of tremendous reputation, sat silently at the end of the table. Unusually, a few Seekers could even be spotted about the hall in various spots, distinguishable by their large leather overcoats with the collars always worn up. Seekers were the enforcement arm of the Academies, responsible for tracking rogue supernaturals - but they were rarely seen by the students. Their appearance was a mark that something was amiss, even if none knew truly what.

Students continued to file into the hall. Friends spotted one another, and groups formed as they always did. Excitable chatter filled the hall. For many, the disagreeable weather and tense circumstances had already been forgotten - they were home, and with the friends they had made over their years at Hawthorne. Among the crowds, the more uncertain first years always stood out.

Suddenly, the music was silenced and the mumble of chatter began to fade expectantly as the Headmaster, Lucius Lightwood, stepped to his podium. Lightwood had been Headmaster for no less than a decade, with his tenure marked by many steps to modernise the Academy. The controversial introduction of wifi nine years ago, for example, has made him particularly popular with the students. He was a man who wore an easy smile and relaxed demeanor, always seen wearing well-tailored checkered suits. He set his hands on either side of the podium, his voice naturally amplified by the hall.

“Welcome, welcome. It is so good to see you all here, undertaking another year of your studies or - for some - beginning what I hope will be the most memorable six years of your lives. At Hawthorne, we are not solely here to learn the academics. We are here also, and perhaps most importantly, to learn who we are. To live and collaborate with one another, to make bonds of unbreakable friendship. Remember this, and your time here will be of great value no matter your exam results.

Now, I have a few start of year notices before I let you all find your dormitories for this year.

First, to all of our first years, know that the Wyrmwood Forest is strictly forbidden to all students. I have also been asked by your Deputy Headmistress, Ms. Gray, to remind you all that the third to ninth sections on the fourth floor of our library, remain restricted to all without oversight of a professor.

I would also like you to know that Professor Bloom has decided to retire, to spend more time with her family. I am very glad though, to introduce your new potions professor. Please join me in welcoming like your newest Professor of Potions, Ms. Ophelia Evergreen.”

He paused to allow for applause then as Ophelia rose temporarily from her seat. Pressing round spectacles up his nose, he continued.

“And as a final note, I wish to assure all of you of the safety you have here at Hawthorne Academy. There is perhaps no safer place in the world.”

He let that linger, though evidently avoided delving too far into the specifics that everybody already knew about. The Daily Oracle had been reporting the disappearances for the entirety of Summer, and speculating wild theories - a cult seeking to destroy supernaturals? A new type of supernatural beast?

“Now, you will find your dormitories listed outside this hall. Your things have already been moved for you. Go, settle in, meet your friends and make new ones. I wish you all the very best of luck for this year.”

With that the doors of the assembly hall flung open, allowing students to file out and find their new dormitories. They would have to settle in quickly, with classes beginning only the very next day. The school year had begun.

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