(Scenario: This short story of Robert The Fool takes place after Is This Why I Won The Throne? and after Lord Balon Greyjoy’s Rebellion. Stannis is at a feast and simply cannot understand his brother’s decision.)
I was Doing My Duty
Stannis Baratheon, Lord of Dragonstone and Master of Ships, glared across Pyke’s dining hall. Ironmen like Lord Gorold Goodbrother and Lord Meldred Merlyn laughed and drank with Lord Jorah Mormont. How these men could drink and laugh when they had been defeated on the seas, and when their castles had been overrun by their enemies, was beyond Stannis. If it had been him who had been defeated, he would have kept a dignified silence and his head low. Clearly dignity was not in the blood of the Ironborn.
Adrack Humble approached Stannis. “Thank you, My Lord,” he said, “for sparing my family and I-”
“Your family committed no crime,” Stannis interjected. “As for you, I was following my brother’s orders to bring you to him alive if you surrendered the castle.”
Adrack Humble hesitated, chewing on his lip. “You are… honourable, My Lord. Not every lord would have followed their king’s command.”
Stannis glowered at him. This man knew nothing of honour. His House came from thralls and salt wives. Even the Ironborn looked down upon House Humble. Yet, he had the audacity to talk of honour to the King’s brother. “I was doing my duty,” Stannis said. “Nothing more.”
Lord Balon’s Intentions
A familiar loud and throaty laugh came from the top table. King Robert’s laughter grated on Stannis, and he grinded his teeth. Robert’s laugh had got under Stannis’ skin for as long as he could remember. He loathed it and wished Robert could learn how to act in a manner befitting a king rather than an oaf.
Nevertheless, Lord Balon Greyjoy and Lord Baelor Blacktyde banged their tankards on the table and laughed with His Grace. Stannis stared at the two lords and shook his head with incomprehension. Lord Balon had started the rebellion when he had proclaimed himself as King of the Iron Islands, before burning the Lannister fleet at Lannisport. He had attempted to bring back the Old Way of his ancestors by pillaging, raping and reaving Westeros’ west coast, with the hope that the realm would turn on Robert and fracture.
But Lord Balon’s actions had done the opposite, and had been exactly what Robert had needed. It had united the realm under Robert in a way that Robert could never have done on his own, as his love for women and wineskin had been threatening to ruin all that he, Lord Eddard Stark and Lord Jon Arryn had fought for in removing Targaeryan rule. War, though, he understood and Lord Balon’s rebellion had given Robert the chance to lead the realm in a way that he had not been able to since Rhaegar Targaryan had kidnapped Lyanna Stark.
How Does Robert Do It?
“Who was he… the one first through the breach?” Lord Balon asked, with a slur. “The one with the flaming sword? I once tried to hold a flaming sword when I was a boy. I lost half my hair doing it.”
“He must be bravest soldier in the world,” Lord Baelor added.
“Or the drunkest,” King Robert quipped.
The three men laughed together, before emptying their mugs of ale.
Days ago, these same men had been fighting against Robert days ago. Now, they are drinking with him under their fallen banners? Lord Balon lost his two elder sons when Robert had smashed down the walls of Pyke, while Lord Baelor had lost his father. None of it made sense. How did Robert inspire loyalty from his enemies so quickly?
Robert’s Chosen Brother
“Lord Stannis,” Lord Eddard Stark said, as he approached. “I hope you are enjoying the celebratory feast.”
Stannis narrowed his eyes. He had no love for Lord Eddard. Robert loved him as a brother more than he loved his blood brothers. Plus, after the Mad King had been stabbed in the back in King’s Landing, it had taken months for Lord Eddard to bother to remember about Storm’s End and ride to lift the Tyrell’s siege. Stannis had held the castle throughout Robert’s Rebellion and had starved for it. If it had not have been for Ser Davos, smuggling onions under the Tyrell’s noses, Stannis would have been forced to eat his own dead.
Stannis wondered if Lord Eddard remembered how skeletal he had been when he had finally lifted the siege. If he understood what it had been like to starve and to take no glory, while others had been the heroic rebels fighting to rid the realm of the yoke of the Mad King.
“The feast is as good as can be,” Stannis said.
The King’s Decision
Lord Eddard nodded and moved closer, so as to speak lowly and in confidence. “The King has decided upon Lord Balon Greyjoy’s fate,” he murmured. “He wanted you to know it before the others.”
Yet, my brother tells you before he tells me. My own brother! Stannis folded his arms. He had inkling that he was not going to like what he was about to hear. “What has he decided?”
“King Robert shall spare all the lords, including Lord Balon, provided they bend the knee.”
If I were King it would be their necks that would bend under my sword. “How will that guarantee peace?”
“I was coming to that,” Lord Eddard answered. “Each House will be expected to give up their heirs as well. I will be taking Theon, Lord Balon’s youngest son and heir, with me back to Winterfell to be my ward until His Grace decides otherwise.”
Robert Cares Not For Justice?
Stannis clenched his jaws. For years, he had deliberated on whether there was more to Robert than mere brawn and boorishness. Now he knew the answer. “So Robert cares not for justice?” Stannis said. “He would have crimes go unpunished?”
Stannis did not want to remind Lord Eddard of the justice he had given to Ser Davos Seaworth. Stannis had let the man live, knighted him and made his son, Mathos, his squire. But for flouting the realm’s laws for years, Stannis had cut off the end of Ser Davos’ fingers to remind him that crimes did not go unpunished.
“His Grace has decided that he wants to restore the peace the realm enjoyed before Lord Balon’s rebellion.”
“Because that worked so well, didn’t it?”
Lord Eddard sighed. “It is what His Grace wishes,” he said, like he wished otherwise. “He is the King and it is for us to honour his wishes.”
“On that much we can agree.”
Robert The Fool
Lord Eddard walked away. The giant banner of the cracken of House Greyjoy flapped on the wall behind where Lord Eddard had been. Stannis glared at it. What is dead may never die, the common saying of the Ironborn, echoed in his mind.
Stannis turned his gaze back to Lord Balon Greyjoy, drinking and laughing with Robert. “What is may never die, but rises again harder and stronger,” he muttered to himself.
Robert was a fool to believe that Lord Balon Greyjoy and the Ironborn would submit to him, even if they knelt. Any man that knelt could rise again and with a sword in hand. Robert would rue the day he did not behead Lord Balon.
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