(Scenario: Aegon receives a letter from Dorne only to realise that it contains a threat more terrifying than dragons in it. What will he do about it?)
Ser Corys Valeryon, the Commander of the Kingsguards, pulled on the velvet cloth. It came down and the air tautened: a large cage containing the head of Meraxes, the dragon that Aegon’s sister-Queen, Rhaenys, had ridden to her death at Hellholt stood before them. Unmistakably, the beast had a fracture at the eye-socket where the bolt had pierced and killed it.
“Is Lord Nymor a fool?” Queen Visenya said.
King Aegon Targaeryan, the First of His Name, sitting on the Iron Throne, looked down at his other sister-wife. He lowered his brows to show his displeasure. “It’s Prince Nymor,” the King said. “Whatever we may think of him, we must call him by his correct title.”
Queen Visenya snorted. “Truly, does he think that this pathetic excuse of a peace offering will make us forget that his people killed our sister?”
“No,” King Aegon replied. “That’s why he sent his heiress with it.”
“You Do Not Mean To Make Peace With The Dornish, Surely?”
“Surely, you do not mean to make peace with the Dornish?” Her voice had an edge to it. Unsurprisingly, it was as sharp as Dark Sister, the Valyrian Steel sword at her hip. “There should be no peace without submission. Otherwise Rhaenys died for naught.”
The men at the council table nodded. It was clear who the lords sided with on the matter of peace with Dorne. “This peace offering is an insult, Your Grace,” Lord Oakheart said. “If the Dornish are so proud of their courage, why don’t they show it by coming out to the field to fight us?”
King Aegon sighed and rubbed his temples. Not for the first time, he sensed that his vigour had evaporated with his youth. For thirteen years he had been at war with Dorne. He had threatened them and burned their towns to smoldering heaps of ash and rubble. But unlike the other six kingdoms, Dorne had not submitted to the dragon.
The Dornish had preferred to hide and ambush at loyalist soldiers, rather than tremble at the sight of Balerion, the Black Dread as the people called him. “My Lord,” King Aegon said. “You may proudly sneer at the Dornish for their courage, or lack thereof. But try as might to mock them, it will not goad them out to the field. Likewise, Balerion and Vhagar can turn their towns and forts into another Harrenhall; yet, it will not bring about the Dornish’s surrender.”
If Only It Were That Simple
“So try harder,” Visenya hissed.
If only it were that simple, Sister. He loved her dearly. Yet, his opinion of her had changed since Rhaenys had died. Where once King Aegon had lusted for Visenya when he was not in bed with her, now he did not want to share his bed with her. Moreover, where once he had found her strong-willed and determined, now he found her stubborn and unforgiving. “I have tried harder,” he said. “And I am willing to try harder still. But I also believe that we should consider all options.”
Visenya snapped him a glare that could have broken stone. “Prince Nymor is past sixty and with failing health. He is weak and has no appetite for war. Thus, we should take advantage of his weakness and strike now! The chance to end the war with Dorne is within out grasp. We cannot miss this opportunity.”
King Aegon tapped the armrest of the Iron Throne, made up of the twisted, mangled swords of his enemies. He pricked his finger on one of the blades and grunted; the acuteness of the pain sharpened his desire to go against his sister. “Mayhap you are right,” he said. “Perhaps, I will give the order to march to war again tonight and be off within a fortnight. However, first, I want to listen to what Princess Deria has to say on her father’s behalf.”
Ideas For Princess Deria
“Your Grace,” Lord Oakheart put in. “A better idea might be to clap her in irons and send her to the city’s cheapest brothel. Then, every man in Fleabottom can use her for his pleasure. So she and her father can feel the pain that Dorne has caused us.”
“Better still,” Lord Orys Baratheon added. “Send her back short a hand.”
King Aegon gave his Hand a sidelong frown. He understood the former warrior’s bitterness. Lord Orys had been captured by Lord Wyl of Wyl, the Widow-Maker, nine years go. However, after being released, Lord Wyl had cut off his sword-hand, thereby ensuring that Lord Orys would never be able to use it against him and Dorne again.
What had happened to Lord Orys had been cruel and unjust. Nevertheless, his unquenchable thirst for spite would not warrant the heiress of Dorne to suffer the same fate that Lord Wyl had delivered him. “Princess Deria came here as her father’s official emissary,” King Aegon said. “Prince Nymor sent her, trusting that I would treat her honourably. And I intend to. So long as I am King, I will not have her, or any other emissaries, harmed. Bring her in.”
Princess Deria Enters
Ser Corlys Valeryon walked forward; his footsteps echoed in the hall. He opened the doors to the throne room, where Princess Deria awaited him. The woman was of average height, age and looks, with a darkish Dornish complexion. She was of no match to Queen Rhaenys’ beauty, and King Aegon’s blood simmered at the thought that his sister had lost her life but this mediocrity still lived.
Princess Deria marched beside Ser Corlys into the hall, tall and proud. There was not a trace of fear glinting in her black beady eyes.
“Kneel before your king,” Visenya told her.
The Princess stopped before the Iron Throne and smiled at Visenya, with all the cunning of the snake on House Martell’s banner. “To kneel would mean that I would have to bow,” she said. “Surely, by now, you are aware that the people of Dorne stand by the words of my House: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken? Or will you come back, flying on your dragon again, to set fire to the ashes and repeat the same, failed tactics that you have tried for-”
Visenya stepped forward.
“She Is An Honoured Guest!”
“No!” King Aegon stated. “She is an honoured guest!”
But Visenya did not listen. In the blink of an eye, she had drawn Dark Sister and put its sharp-tip to Princess Deria’s neck. “Speak another word that I take displeasure to,” she said. “And I will send your head back to your father as my peace offering.”
Princess Deria, who had not as much as flinched, widened her smile. “If you think beheading me will frighten my father, or will anger my people enough to make us fight you like the other foolish Houses, you have misunderstood the viper and Dorne. You can wage war a hundred times against us and each time you will retreat from our lands with your tail between your dragon’s legs.”
Visenya scowled. Her sword quivered at the Princess’ neck, as if she wanted to pierce it whilst holding herself back from her own desires.
King Aegon decided it was best to ignore his sister’s rashness, rather than humiliate her by telling her to put the sword down. “Princess Deria,” he said, speaking down to the Dornish woman. “We welcome you to the capital. Thus far, I hope your stay has been enjoyable.”
“The Viper Does Not Bow, Kneel Or Submit”
“Your capital is new. Thus, I can forgive it for lacking in beauty and history, especially when comparing it to Sunspear. But I did not come to compare our respective capitals.”
As I try to be diplomatic, she has the audacity to taunt me. “I understand that you have come to speak of peace,” the King said, continuing to be tactful. “Many in here wish for submission as the price Dorne must pay for peace. What say you and your father to that?”
“We expect nothing less from the dragon. But the viper does not bow, kneel or submit. And nor will it, even if you deem my father weak-willed and ill.”
King Aegon narrowed his brows. “If your father has not sent you to submit to the Iron Throne,” he said. “Then, for what reason has he sent you?”
“For Your Eyes Only, Your Grace”
Princess Deria looked at Visenya and waited for the Queen to remove her sword. Then, Deria dipped her hand into her pocket. Aegon tensed, and the knights of the King’s Guards grabbed the hilts of their swords.
Picking up on the sudden tension in the hall, Princess Deria kept her hand in her pocket and glanced around the hall. The grin plastered on her face hinted that she enjoyed all eyes being on her. “If I had wanted to throw a dagger at you, Your Grace,” she said. “You would have had the blade in your throat already. Yet, you need not worry. I am unarmed.” She removed her hand from her pocket and held out a letter. “For your eyes only, Your Grace.”
King Aegon gestured to Ser Corlys and flicked his wrist, indicating to the knight that he should bring him the letter. The Commander of the King’s Guard did as he was bid. Subsequently, King Aegon assessed the wax seal: orange with a viper coiling around a spear, the official stamp of House Martell.
A Threat More Terrifying Than Dragons
King Aegon broke the seal and unwound the scroll. “Your Grace, King Aegon of the House Targaeryan, First Of His Name Of The Six Kingdoms, Rider of Balerion the Black Dread, and known to all but Dorne as The Conqueror,” he read. “I appeal to you, as a father and a ruler, to end the hostilities. Our peoples need not suffer any more. No more families need know loss and grief because we cannot act in a way befitting kings. Let the annals of history say that King Aegon the Conqueror was a wise man, as well as a strong one. Therefore, I urge you to take this chance to meet me at Dragonstone, so that we can make an eternal peace between our kingdoms.
“I am there already,” King Aegon read on. “And I am waiting for you to arrive on the back of your black dragon. I expect your arrival in three days. If you have not arrived in five, you will know loss as a father as you have as a brother. I hired the Faceless Men of Braavos some time ago and have infiltrated those closest to you, those who guard, advise and serve you.”
Cold air breathed down Aegon’s back and the hairs turned to prickles. The Faceless Men were silent assassins that made murder look like a natural occurrence. In Old Valyria they used to say that the Faceless Men were a threat more terrifying than dragons. Now Aegon understood why.
“Some of the men and women may look like people you have known for years,” Aegon carried on reading. “But they are not. If you have not left your capital within two days from the time of opening this letter, these same people are under instruction to make you know loss as you could never have imagined. The choice is yours. I hope you make the right one. Prince Nymor Martell.”
Aegon’s hand trembled. He flicked his eyes from side to side, wondering who was and who was not who they said they were. Who were the assassins, ready to murder his children?
“What do you say, Your Grace?” Princess Deria asked, sneering.
She knows. King Aegon, still holding the letter, pressed his finger and thumb together. Blood leaked from his pricked finger, down the parchment, and droplets dripped onto his grey hose. King Aegon had a terrible urge to arrest her and have her thrown in a dungeon, to force her to confess to who the Faceless Men were among his court and household.
Yet, if she were anything like her people, he would sooner get viper’s poison than the truth. “I leave for Dragonstone in the morning,” he said. “Now go, Princess Deria. I never want to see you again.”
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