The city had been in turmoil since the return of the dragons.
Shadows that stretched across a whole district of the chaotic city had been cast from the sky as Balerion and Vhagar had plunged from on high, sweeping low around the steadily rising towers of the nascent Red keep.
Many had cheered, but many others had known fear or outrage, perhaps both. When Maegor had set his standard upon the hill, much of the common folk had flocked to the King. The people of King’s Landing tended towards those who had benefited most, either in prosperity or simple survival, from the conquest, and so few had sour feelings for the banner of the red dragon. For many, concerns about the brutality of the then-Prince in far off Essos, and memories of his work as Hand of the King, were instead cause for hope. A strong hand, or a fist, to quell the times of trouble that had swept across the continent.
The noble manses of the young city were notably lackluster in comparison, even those who had little reason to chafe against the rule of House Targaryen might indeed have much to protest about what some had already called a usurpation, in complete contradiction to the laws of the seven which had governed inheritance in Westeros for thousands of years.
Maegor’s stance was clear, just as Aegon had forged an exception for his marriage, Maegor had forged an exception for his inheritance. The realm could not be governed by children, when it was so threatened by treason and banditry.
Those who did not accept this, and especially those who worked against the continued rule of House Targaryen in its whole, were not so easy to placate. Little more than a day after the King’s arrival, the representatives of the Seven within the city had called for Maegor to relinquish his crown, and when they did not, they had called for their most sacred trial as recompense. The Trial of the Seven. Seven swords against Seven swords, to decide the fate of the realm.
Court, or at least, what could be considered it, had assembled to hear the King’s response. He had not deemed fit to give proclamation from the relative privacy and security of the Red Keep, but instead the sprawling outer slope of the hilltop, exposing both nobility and small folk to matters of state.
“Who then, will fight for your King?” The King spoke with a voice which carried over the hillside, with an easy sense of volume which did not turn his words into a desperate shout, a cold fury in his eyes boring into the assembled nobility that he addressed. When silence was his response, beyond weak shudders and the turning down of eyes, something close to amusement wormed it’s way onto his face. How dreadful they must think me.
“I will, your grace.” A voice rose from the crowd, but not from the assembled nobility, instead, further away from the King and the mount. A common voice, articulate, but bearing no sign of formal education. There was a murmur of shock, a few gasps, and perhaps a few laughs, as a man stepped from the well drilled lines of the House Targaryen footmen.
“I been a king's man since I was a boy. I mean to die a king's man, if so be it.” The man continued, as he knelt on the ground before the King, offering forwards the simple sword he carried.
Maegor regarded the man, in the red and black of his household, for a handful of moments, before the grim visage of the King nodded in acceptance.
“This bean shames us all! Are there no true knights here? No leal men?” A voice rose up from the ranks of the Kingsguard, as one of the white cloaks stepped forwards, likewise, coming to a knee before the King.
One of the more stoic onlookers of the events took a step forwards from the crowd of nobility. A towering man of great stature, the Lord of House Baratheon had not been cowed by the presence of dragons, for he had spent much of his life in their company. Durran had waited, so as to not swing matters on the merit of his own name, but to delay further would be close enough to renouncing the close bond his own house had with the Crown. He was already dressed in armor, a fine suit of dark metal broken up by the flowing tabard of his household. Durran had not been long in the capital, for matters had held him in the Stormlands, but now that his son was seeing to local matters, he had deemed it more important to represent himself at court, a decision that now seems prophetic in its timing.
“House Baratheon stands with the throne, and so I shall stand with you, your Grace.” He did not fall to his knees as the others had, but bowed his head to the new King, the severity of his gaze clear for all. Victory was not a sure thing, and there were more gasps and murmurs than even at the volunteering of the lowborn, for a Lord Paramount to risk his own life for such a trial, but there was little that could be done to ignore the blood shared between them.
The Warrior of House Arryn had spent days laid out in recovery from the harrowing events that grew in absurdity each time he retold the tale. Until, blessed by the Seven undoubtedly, word reached him in his sick bed of the true dragons’ return to the city. He watched the scene unfold, Prince Maegor - King Maegor - challenged before him. He whispered too loudly an uncouth remark about the first who pledged his honor. But it was Lord Baratheon who spurred him forward to action.
He briefly considered his brother’s disapproval, the warnings he had been given and largely ignored anyways. No, Osric was certain that his grim brother would come to see the benefit of being decisive here. And, perhaps the newest woman to steal his heart would take heart as well. And if not her, certainly her father would find him a worthy match for his daughter. His eyes scanned the crowd for a moment, unable to find her in the mass. He would find her later, when he would be bloodied but victorious from battle.
“Ser Osric of House Arryn stands with our king.” He pushed his way forward to stand beside Durran Baratheon. It wasn’t enough to just offer his sword. “You brought justice to the Vale, an act we will not forget. My sword-arm for you!” He turned, exaggerating his search again through the crowd. “And in victory, my Lady Rhoelle, I will pledge myself to you.”
The scene laid out was one that would be told again and again, songs would be made of those men who came out victorious. Horas felt his father’s hand on his shoulder, restraining him from taking that fatal step forward. He did not know that his father planned to step up himself, while no longer keen with a sword the Lord of Harrenhal had his duty. Maegor, now their King, was also their family by marriage of a sister and a daughter to the Harroways. The House could not just let this challenge to him go without an answer. Yet that answer could carry a high cost.
So it was with the youthful impression that he was immortal that Horas shrugged off his father’s hand and drew the sword at his side. Though only a squire, he stepped forward and drew his sword. His father behind him looking grim. His sister’s faces polite masks, though Jeyne’s eyes were daggers into Horas’s unguarded back. “Your Grace! My sister wed you. Though I am but a squire, I will not let this insult go unpunished! Through Fire and Flame, I’ll see these dogs meet the Stranger.”
The Lord of Harrow’s hand, once clasped on his youngest son’s shoulder, now dropped to clasp Hanna on hers. It was all he could do. This was going to be a melee and brawl to the death and his youngest. Not even a knight was stepping in to do battle where stronger men would pause. With luck, Maegor would refuse Horas’s the honor and if that blow fell heavy. His boy would be put out of the way of danger. It was a father’s failing to want to see his sons grow tall.
Damon the Devout wanted to sneer at the bootlicking that was going on, but kept his face passive. The Warrior Sons, his fellow brethren, his brothers in arms were blessed by the Seven to take down the vile usurper. Maegor would find his end here and a more worthy man would rise to the occasion to lead Westeros into a faithful era. Directing the Warrior Sons chapter in King's Landing had been his pleasure and to have Maegor crown himself and demand things like a child was a bit of a surprise. He had thought Maegor would be less childish about this, but no the polygamous ungodly usurper was intent on getting his way and if it took attempting to cut down the whole of Westeros; Damon believed he’d do it.
One of those who stood in the ranks of the watching nobility was, much to the chagrin of those standing about him, not like the others. Of course that's what every noble might think, but it was quite true. A smile grew across the man's face, one hand grasping hard at his blade nestled in scabbard, his long locks wispy in the hill's wind. He was Ironborn and, quite simply, he felt truly alive with the proposition laid bare before him. It was a moment of history brought on by chance, by his pulling into port for cargo. When he saw the dragon above, he knew it was history before him. The tall reaver's breath came ragged at the thought. Smallfolk and even a riverlander to say their support before he, though? It was nearly intolerable. Harlan Smokestone cried out, gruff islander tones a far cry from the formalities of those before as he stepped forward in the crowd to draw his blade in salute. "What is dead cannot die! King Maegor, I know you. I know the screams of the Dothraki widows from your justice, and it was beauty. I will kill these snakes who pretend to be men for you."
The King surveyed the increasingly vocal crowd before him with an intensity that was unwavering, the deep violet glare leveling equally on those who swore their swords to him, to those who stood by and those who would draw against him with equal unyielding judgment. He would remember it all. Some of those who's voices had joined their cause to his he felt little point in committing to memory, he didn't not expect them to last, but spattered among them were notable warriors he considered a boon to have. The Baratheons were a towering lot, the martial skill of his father's bastard brother with the sturdy build of the Durrandon's. The Ironborn was the closest thing to a true surprise however, and already some of the crowd murmured in discontent. This was a sacred rite of the faith, yet a follower of their Drowned God had volunteered himself to fight.
"Men of all lands understand their duty." Maegor finally spoke, his vision set on the Ironborn. "No greater sign of the folly of their treason could be present, those who fight with me assure the victory of our righteous cause. Those who stand against us, the Kingdom will know as thieves and traitors." With his words, Maegor dismissed the wider crowd, the men at arms of House Targaryen working to disperse the smallfolk even as the nobility made their own way. Those who had chosen to fight for their king were permitted to remain as they prepared for the fight to come.
Maegor paced some way from the others for the moment, looking out across the city. His city. The moment of solitary thought passed however, as the armoured form of his mother appeared beside him. Without speaking, Maegor removed the studded crown of his father from his temple, handing it over to Visenya, who clasped it in both hands as she had when she first passed the Kingdom to him.
"I will crush them." His voice did not carry, but nor did it boom across the landscape as it had before. He did not speak the alternative, such was his conviction, but still he carried on. "Rhaena, take it to her, let her burn it all, be queen of whatever ash remains." Visenya nodded, on this she was agreed. She wouldn't have entertained the idea of the trial, burning the traitors instead, but she was not her son, and she knew he would never abandoned the chance to show his strength and his cause. She had little hope for the rest of the potential heirs, but the young dragoness was the least terrible option before her, should her unthinkable fear happen.
She stood in her own silence for the moment, before simply adding. "Kill them all, then burn their nest."
As the crowd began to disperse, the Knight of the Vale, the Warrior’s chosen vassal if he believed his elder brother, took in the gravity of the moment. No matter the bravado he displayed, and he thought he did so flawlessly, beneath it he also knew the danger that lurked. He had only just returned to sparring after the unfortunate incident with the dragon lady. Misfortune turned to highest fortune once they were victorious. He looked to Maegor Targaryen, first of his name, a swell of respect and longing in his chest. What fortune indeed to prove himself to king and faith.
He knew only some of the other men who had stepped up, and while he had at first been intrigued by the man called Bean, it was the Ironborn that drew his attention most. No true knight, a heathen, it was not so long ago they would have waged war against one another in the riverlands. With one last look to the King and no sign of Rhoelle, he approached the man instead.
He would have clapped the Ironborn’s shoulder, but as he drew closer he was thwarted by just how large the man actually was. Unusual, nearly a giant of a man, Osric wondered if it would be an aid or a hindrance on a battlefield - or their trial. He instead opted to clap the man’s elbow and was pleased it was only soreness and not sharp pain that traveled up his arm. If Maegor accepted him, then who was he to disagree? “Have you ever fought a proper melee, Ser…” Osric drew it out. “Well, probably not a ser, eh? Which isle will be naming all their sons after you when we’ve won?” The smile was easy, though hints of fading yellow bruises were visible yet on his skin.
Harlan turned, looked down at the knight, his mind rolling through which one of the crowd the man actually was. One of the Riverlanders, that's who it was, and the colors on the man's tabard gave the Ironborn pause to wonder which, exactly, the man was. Wait a damnable moment…, no he wasn't a Riverlander. The accent didn't match, the more he talked, and now he could see the man's true colors. He bore Arryn's, as plain as they may be compared even to the half-moon of Smokestone. Of all the things to approach he it would be an Arryn, Harlan thought ruefully, though he gave but a narrowing of the eyes to the shorter knight.
"No such thing as a proper melee. Nothing proper about butchery, be it pigs or men. But yes, Arryn, I have." He gave pause to the second question, meeting the smile of the Valeman with a snort after a breath's moment. "My house doesn't know I’m here. Not precise, anyways. It'll be a time before the Iron Isles knows, another time still before word reaches Lonely Light, and time still before it reaches home. White Rock will feel pride, maybe…but no. I don't think they'll name sons after me. No matter whether I stand beside Maegor or the Drowned God himself, they'll not name sons for me, not for killing a few men of the Seven. It'll be a fun day, though. A good day."
He looked back to the Arryn, away from the misty thoughts that had seemed to strike him. The man seemed bruised, somewhat, yellowed and issued. A strange thing to choose after having a tussle, that was for certain. "I am Harlan, younger brother to the Smokestone."
“Never heard of it.” Osric spoke with a snap, but not dishonesty. He had never been one to pay attention to memorizing the details of small houses or realms. "But after today, friend, I’m sure your name will be sung. Even if your people don’t!” The grin remained, toothy and accompanied by a gruff laugh. His brother would surely turn purple when he learned that a drowned god heathen supported Maegor to victory. Perhaps it would be enough to return home himself, a task he’d avoided for too long.
“A good day indeed but probably no need for killing. We’ll knock them around good, no doubt. No doubt at all. The Faith will take it as a sign that the Seven smile on our King, and we can get back about our business.” He nodded to himself as he spoke, full of confidence. Perhaps some would die, there was always a risk, but he was sure that much of this was for show. The Faith bent before, they would again. He didn’t need some rough sellsword like Harlan of White Rock instigating matters worse.
His gaze fell at last on a woman in the distance, unmistakable in her form. “And when this is all said and done that woman will be in my bed to melt away the pain and bruises, no doubt.” He arched a knowing eyebrow up towards the Ironborn. He’d make good on his declaration, but after a taste first.
The Smokestone man gave pause, half smiling to himself at the nature of the man. He seemed to think they would only beat the others, and force them to yield honorably. There was nothing exactly honorable about fighting though, not in Harlan's opinion. "Don't lie to yourself. Maegor wants to kill them; he's not a man to make meager efforts, nor leave his challengers alive to remember their failure. Remember…I pledged to kill the snakes and the King did not correct me. And as for the others…they want to kill Maegor. They understand how dangerous he is, how angry he is. Letting him live would mean they would die later. No, Arryn…there'll be dead men. It will be a good day."
He chuckled a little, then, a rough chuckle deep in the chest. "Hopefully your woman can stitch your wounds, too."
Osric shook his head but pressed his lips tightly. Perhaps a few dead, the ones who were barely more than farmers. He was certain of it and even more certain now that while Harlan’s sword arm would be beneficial, he was beneath the Arryn knight. Afterwards though…”We’ll put some coin on it, how about? When the dust has settled and you see I have the right of it, you can buy me another roll with the one they call the Flame of Lys.” With a deep breath and a long exhale, he gave one final look to the man. “I’ll bet an additional stag that we’re in the whorehouses with our enemies singing and drinking. And after all that, my woman can tend to me.” He grinned and clapped his ally’s elbow once more in departure. He was bored of the small prattle, best to not allow himself to think too poorly of a man he’d be fighting beside, best to leave before his opinion grew worse.
“As you galavant about which whores you mean to see to, I mean to declare myself a Ser after this.” The young Horas Harroway strode to the two. His all too common brown hair and eye forgettable as his sharp face was like that of a common fox had a wicked flicker in his eyes. “A knight for defending my sister’s husband and King? You both will get pity from the whores for a night, I’ll get the glory for the rest of my life on this side of the Narrow Sea and beyond.” For surely Damon would take the Ser KingsShield, or whatever nonsense was given him, across the sea and on his many travels. It was something as a point of pride with the younger Harroways to follow the example of their Captain brother. “But you, Arryn. I know you. My father spat your name a few times over that incident. How does the water of the Bay taste?”
“Bah,” Harlan spat on the ground, chuckling just a bit deep in his chest, “I won’t get any pity from the whores in this town. I’ll garner my satisfactions from Riverlander women, pup.” He loomed just a tad over the young Harroway, smiling though it rarely touched at his eyes. Harlan could sense something in the air, though he wasn’t sure of what exactly it was. “Would you know of any fresh ones, Harroway?”
Osric’s attempt to leave was cut short. “Watch your tongues.” He spoke to both but with his eyes on Harlan. Harroway was barely more than a boy by his estimations, and a surly one, but he was the King’s kin by marriage. The Ironborn, that one didn’t understand the way of things. He had no standing to speak that way. Whatever cause Harroway had over his recent…adventure…was a concern for after the trial. He just needed to prove himself here and any rumors or unhappiness would be put to rest. The Arryn knight ignored it, mostly. “Bay water is refreshing, nearly as much as the air rushing around you while on dragonback.” He gave a toothy, confident grin. “Nothing either of you could relate to. May the Warrior favor you as much as he has me.” He was done with their jostling and set off to prepare for the coming trial, daydreams of his future good luck playing vibrantly in his mind.