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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

BlackBishop

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Prologue


"On the day of Doom every hill for five miles had split asunder to fill the air with ash and smoke and fire, blazes so hot and hungry that even dragons in the sky were engulfed and consumed.
Great rents had opened in the earth, swallowing palaces, temples, entire towns. Lakes boiled or turned to acid, mountains burst, fiery fountains spewed molten rock a thousand feet into the air, red clouds rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons, and to the north the ground splintered and collapsed and fell in on itself and an angry sea came rushing in.
The proudest city in all the world was gone in an instant, its fabled empire vanished in a day, the Lands of the Long Summer scorched and drowned and blighted." ~ The Doom of Valryia



A single raft drifts listlessly in the eerily calm waters of the sea. A cloud of ash had descended overtop the still waters, raining its blackened soot down from the blood red sky. Behind the raft the horizon seemed to glow with a million fires. The view ahead was obscured by the thick ashen mist.

A man stands still upon the raft, so still he may be a statue. His eyes gaze down at a lifeless body that lays before him. Pain and remorse can be seen in the man as he looks at the dead woman, her head almost covered by drying, sticky blood. His attention is soon diverted to what lay beyond her. A bundle of clothes begin to pulse with a heart beat.

doom-doom!

He steps over the dead woman and inspects the rag pile.

Doom-doom!

The heap of cloth begins to vibrate with the deep drum beats.

Doom-doom, doom-doom!

The man falls to his knees, a great pain creases across his face and he shudders, unable to tear himself away from the rags.

Doom-doom, doooooom!
doom-doom, doom-doom,
DOOM!


His hands frantically peel off the rags, throwing them over the raft into the water. He laughs and cries and curses as the pieces of cloth are thrown up over his head, into the sea or upon the body of the dead woman. Finally what was hidden beneath is revealed.

Doom-doom!

It is a long sword, pulsing with an inner red glow, casting its luminescent light on the face of the man. Upon the face of the sharp sword-blade are folds and ripples of steel that are the trademark of the sword smiths of Valaryia. Two dagger like prongs jet out at the top of the hilt, curved upward to protect the wielders hand from an opponent's swords. The hilt spirals downward to the pummel which is fashioned in the shape of a skull. The pommel is carved from dragonbone, black obsidian jewels set in the skull's eyes, staring up at the man. The red glow resides and the ashen cloud that was before the raft begins to break apart, revealing the horizon that lay ahead. A sharp breeze begins to blow from the burning lights, bringing with it the scent of death and fire. The water below begins to churn and carry the boat ahead, over the horizon.

Doom-doom!

The glow of the sword fades away as the man lays down beside the woman. He closes his eyes and dreams an endless dream. The valyrian blade then pulses vibrantly once again. No longer red, the light of the sword now takes on a different shade, a kind of blackness or void of light that seems to swallow up all colour around it. The deep pulses are now taken over by a high pitched scream from the sword. The woman's eyes open suddenly, lifeless and dark. Her cracked and bloody lips curl upward in a smile as the rushing water below the raft carries her across the world, to a strange new shore.
 
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BlackBishop

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Appendix

House Crakehall

crakehall01.jpg


"None So Fierce"​

The robustness of House Crakehall is something of legend in Westeros. Crakehalls are known to be among the best warriors in the land, producing such famed soliders as Ser Roland Crakehall, who was a member of the Kingsguard and sided with Prince Aerion in the Trial by Seven. Though their holdings do not include any of the famed goldminds of the Westerlands, the rugged hills and dense forests have shaped the inhabitants into a hardy people whom welcome hardship both on and off the field of battle. Crakehall can trace their lineage back to the age of heroes where the warrior Crake built a mighty fortress in the dense forests of Westerland and fought the Children of the Forest to a truce after years of bloodshed at the Isle of Faces. After the Andals settled Westeros, Crakehall fought primarly against the houses of Ironborn, in service to the lords of Casterly Rock. Today House Crakehall maintains it's vigilant watch on the western border of the Westerlands and ensures the safety and prosperity of the west. Their words are None So Fierce!

SER SUMNER CRAKEHALL II, Lord of Crakehall, West-guard of Westerlands, sworn in service to House Lannister
- his wife LADY JHAEIRA
- their son, ROLAND CRAKEHALL, heir to Crakehall, wed to BELLENA
- and their son, TYBOLT CRAKEHALL
- and his son SUMNER CRAKEHALL​
- their son SER LYLE CRAKEHALL, also known as strongboar, master of arms, wed to ZOE
- and their son, THEODORE, master of whisperers​
- their daughter, SHIERA CRAKEHALL, master of laws to Lannisport, wed to DAMION LANNISTER, heir to the lordship of Lannisport
- and their son, TYRAN LANNISTER, Lord of Lannisport
- and their daughter, LADY LANNA, wed to ANTARIO JAST, Lord of Lonmont
- and their sons SANCHO and ALFONSO​
- their son SER BURTON CRAKEHALL, master of laws
- and his daughters, MELESA and BELLANA​
- his household,
- SEPTON WYLLAND GREYMARCH, castellan
- RULPH SPICER, master of coin
- SEPTON BENEDICT BALSDEAN, spiritual advisor​


-Knights and bannerman sworn to service
- SER JOFFREY FALWELL
- SER GEWAIN HAWTHORNE
- SER RAYNARD YEW​





House Saltcliffe

crakehall04.jpg


"Blessed in Salt and Battle"​

The noble house Saltcliffe rules the island of Saltcliffe from their seat at Salt End, and have done so for the last 300 years since awarded the rule by Lord Vickon Greyjoy the first. Though House Saltcliffe does not enjoy the same amount of prestige as the other great houses of the Iron Isles, they have a reputation of being among the most loyal of Greyjoy's bannermen. The blood of the house is claimed to be descended from the warrior-monk, Helon the Saltdrinker, from the age of heroes, of whom it is said rode a nine headed sea serpent into battle. House Saltcliffe's minimal influence among the isles has reached in all time low in recent years as the lords of Saltcliffe Isle have suffered from numerous stillborns and now rumoured to be cursed. Superstitions aside, the rocky terrain of the isle is home to several iron mines and the city of Saltford, home to many accomplished reavers. Their words are Blessed in Salt and Battle!

DONNER SALTCLIFFE, Lord of Saltcliffe Isle, sworn in service to House Greyjoy
- his sister, LADY QUELLA wed to SAWANE BOTLEY, Lord of Lordsport
- and their son HARREN BOTLEY, heir to Saltcliffe​


- his household,
- TODRIC of SERPENTSMOUTH, castellan
- ROMNY of SERPENTSMOUTH, master of laws
- SKYTE of SALTFORD, master of whisperers
- QHORED of SERPENTSMOUTH, master of coin
- MANFRYD of SALTEND, courtier
- YOHN of SERPENTSMOUTH, courtier
- DONEL of SALTFORD, courtier
- SIGRIN of SALTFORD, courtier
- YNYS, saltwife​


His bannermen sworn to service
- LUCAS SUNDERLY, Lord of Saltford​
 
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BlackBishop

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SUMMY

crakehall02.jpg

The smell of old books and herbs hung thick in the air of the late measter's office. Sumner, or Summy as his family called him, had his face buried in a book. He wasn't exactly a scholary man, to be sure. He felt that real world experience was of a far greater value than reading of the trial of others penned in parchment. However there were some fields of study that did not warrant any other medium than that of dusty tombs. It was in books such at these, History of Old Valaryia, for example, that Sumner would lose himself, sometimes for much longer than he originally intended.

The young man was so intently reading the book in the dusty office that he didn't hear the man who entered the room, and now leaned against the doorway watching Sumner with a mocking smile. "Busying yourself with cleaning the maester's office, I see."

Summy looked up with a start. It was his cousin Theodore, smiling at him through his feeble mustache.

"What? It's much cleaner," retorted Summy though he did not believe it. After the previous maester died some days ago, Summy had taken it upon himself to clean and organise the office for the next maester the citidel would send, only to lose himself in the many journals and books that lay about the room.

Theodore clicked his tongue through his mustache. No doubt the patch of hair on his upper lip was an attempt to impress his father, Ser Lyle Strongboar. Lyle was a bit of a brute in Summy's opinion, a man whom only measured strength and overlooked the other worthy talents of his son. In Theodore's quest to win the praise of his father, he has raised high in court to become the Master of Whisperers on the Council of Castle Crakehall. Though Lyle cannot see the talents of his son, Lord Sumner, the great grandfather of Summy, certainly has. He can't help but be a little jealous of his cousin's standing in the court, but overall he is happy for him. When the time comes for Summy to take the lord's seat of Crakehall, which will not be for a very long time if how long his great grandfather has lived is any indication, all he can hope is that Theodore will be at his side with his wise counsel.

Theodore stepped into the office, looking quizzically at the heavy book laid at the desk, and with a mocking voice, begins to read a passage outloud. "Though most valyrian blades are considered simply to be of the finest quality and strongest weapons in all the known world, there are those who maintain that magical properties may be attributed to some of the older items if certain conditions are met." Theodore stiffled a laugh and raised his hands toward Summy as if he was casting a spell.

Summy couldn't help but laugh. He leaned back in the chair and shook his head at his cousin, slamming the book shut. "Are you here to mock me, cuz, or do you have a purpose here? I know! You came to help me clean."

Theodore motioned to the disorderd books, scrolls, vials and heaps of clothes that lay about the room. "I think you've done a fine enough job of that, my lord." Theodore jumped up and sat upon the desk, kicking Summy's chair out in the process. Summy had to grab the table to keep from falling over. "I've come to take you away from your readings of magical swords and back to reality. Lord Sumner has called court, all are to be in attendance."

Summy stood up and gave his cousin a good tug on his leg, smiling broadly as he fell from the desk and landed hard on his behind. "Let me guess... the new maester has arrived."

Theodore was up on his feet in an instant, trying vainly to grip his cousin in a headlock to no avail, than holding his arms up in a sign of truce, seeming to remember that he was on an errand as a member of the council. He lowered his voice, "Ser Burton has come back from the Riverlands. He brings ill-tidings if the rumours are true."

All of Crakehall was abuzz with rumours of war. The Hand of the King, Eddard Stark, had failed in a coupe for the Iron Throne and was cut down by the King's Justice. All this only days after King Robert died in a horrible hunting accident. Now there was talk that the North was going to rebel against the throne. Meanwhile Lord Tywin Lannister had marched out into the riverlands to hunt outlaws of the Hand, only to find that the Tully's had thrown in with the former Hand. Summy had hoped that Lord Tywin would resolve the situation quickly, bring the Tully's back to the King's peace and deal with the upstart northeners. Summy followed his cousin out of the office, and into the main hall of Castle Crakehall, where Lord Sumner held court.

The long hall, said to date back to the hero Crake, was cut from stained weirwood, tall pillars ran along the walls in two rows, supporting the high arching ceiling. A great firepit lay in the middle of the floor, cut into the stone, dark and cold, reflecting a somber mood in the great chamber. At the head sat Lord Sumner. Old and bent, he sat stooped upon his seat, his failing eyes squinting around the room. To his right sat Roland, his eldest son and lord heir to Crakehall, Summy's grandfather. His body was rigid as he looked over the room, making sure all the court were here. At his side, awaiting his lord's pleasure was Ser Burton, Lord Sumner's youngest son, though he be at the ripe age of 56.

Summy found a place to stand beside his father, Tybolt. His father gave him a nod in way of greeting. He was next in line to inherit the throne after Roland, and as much as Summy knew he wanted that lordship, with all this talk of war, Tybolt seemed none too eager to inherit that responsibility now.

After he was satisfied that all the court were in the hall, Roland let his voice carry over the courtiers. "We have been called to attendence by our lord to discuss the tidings in the Riverlands, and the struggle of Lord Paramount Tywin Lannister to restore the King's peace in Westerose. Ser Burton has returned from a hard ride from the Riverlands and has tidings for us all. Speak brother."

Burton stepped forward, he looked very tired, seeming to have gotten little rest from his journey. "Hear me, lords of the hall! I bring ill tiding's from our lord Tywin of Lannister. War has come to Westerose, in the shape of a wolf. We have suffered a crushing defeat at Riverrun. The riverlords along with their northern allies, through cunning and deception have captured Ser Jaimie Lannister." There were some sharp gasps of dismay. "Our beloved Ser Jaimie is now held by the young wolf, son of the traitor Eddard Stark, who has proclaimed himself King of the North! Lord Tywin now gathers all his strength at Castle Harrenhal and calls on fresh troops to aid in the effort to bring Riverrun to answer for their crimes, and drive the young wolf into the arms of the stranger. Renly Baratheon, claiming the Iron Throne for himself, has forged an alliance with High Garden and the Reach, and assembled a great host and is marching on King's Landing as I speak. What is more, we have come upon news that Stannis Baratheon of Dragonstone too looks to usurp King Joffrey's throne, spreading vile lies throughout the realm and claiming himself to be King of Westeros. War is my cry! War for Crake's Hall!"

The hall fell deathly silent. All were too shocked for words. Four Kings where there can only be one. Finally Ser Raynard Yew, a landed knight stepped forward, "We must raise our levies as Lord Tywin commands, but what of our own banners? Our watch is to the west, but all enemies are to the east, north and south."

Lyle Strongboar spoke up, "That's right! Let me lead an army, I shall bring our host east to King's Landing, to defend the King!"

Theodore shook his head, and proved why his voice was so respected in the court. "And what of the Iron Born? Will they not sieze on this opportunity to expand their own borders? Are we to leave the west unguarded so that the iron tentacles may be felt even here, within this hall."

Lyle scoffed, "The Ironborn would never dare rebel after they were crushed so decisively years ago."

"Crushed by who, father?" Questioned Theodore, "Our dear king that now lay dead from a boar's tusk?"

Lyle's eyes regarded his son cooly, his mouth tightened. Finally his mind grasped what his son had said and he nodded, "Give me but a token force, enough so that our lands remain safe and that we may show our support of King Joffrey."

With an effort Lord Sumner whispered his commands into Roland's ear. Roland stood up and raised his chin dutifully before the hall. "Ser Joffrey, do you stand ready to do your duty for the realm?"

A man of broad shoulders and heavy gut stood at attention. "I do my lord."

"Raise your banners, you march to Kings Landing under the command of Ser Lyle."

Several hours later smallfolk lined the road cheering on the soldiers that marched out of the castle as the nobility stood atop the wall. Ladies threw flowers and favours down to the knights and soldiers as they marched, the peasants raised their fists in salute, chanting, "Strongboar! Strongboar! Strongboar!"

crakehall03.jpg

Sumnmy watched the line of troops march down the road and out of sight beside his cousin. Theodore put on a brave face, but the worry in his eyes for his father betrayed his feigned confidance. "That bit you were reading about a magic sword... well I don't think its stupid. I wish we had one, for my father."

Summy put a hand on Theodore's shoulder, "I know."
 
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Pande

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Nicely done sir, particularly the dialogue! Looking forward to the rest.
 

BlackBishop

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DONNOR​

crakehall05.jpg

The crisp salty air of Saltcliffe Isle was a better homecoming than any other he could imagine. Donnor stood on the deck of his prized warship, taking stock of what lay ahead of him. For ten months he had been out at sea, his ship, the Blessed in Blood, could hardly stay afloat from all the treasures they had aquired on their reaving from across the narrow sea. The Drowned God had given them a strong breeze since they turned north in the Summer Sea, giving them a speedy voyage home.

Donnor winced as he looked down at his bandaged arm in its sling. They had come upon the merchant ship in the Broken Sea, just where he was told it would be, and his men were all eager for some actual glory. So he had little choice than to blow his war horn, Saltclaw, an heirloom of his house. They sailed up beside the large trade cog with the wind. Many of the crew, craven, had jumped into the water, taking their chances in the long swim to shore rather than fight for their meager wages. A few sell swords called for blood as they lowered the planks and ran across to pay the iron price. Donnor took up position in the rear, preferring to shout commands rather than get in the thick of the fray. As the battle ensued, a gap opened up in his defence as one of his reavers, some young lad, barely able to lift an axe, received a nasty sword slice across his chest and fell to the lament of his tortured scream. Donnor was set upon by a fat merchant lord who swung a powerful mace. The damned man shattered his shield along with his arm. It was a stroke of luck that Lucas, his loyal bannerman, was nearby and able to jump on the giant's back and slit his throat ear to ear. He imagined the man's body had sunk like a stone to the halls of the Drowned God. It could be worse, the northly wind speeds the ship as well as my arm's healing. He opened and closed the hand of his broken arm, swallowing his pain.

There wasn't much on the ship, but it was good to hearten the men and make them blind to the real purpose of their voyage. There was a little gold to be had though, which he gave sparingly to his men, keeping none for himself. Donner would have rather avoided the fight, but he knew the men needed it. It was a sin in the mind of the Ironborn that Donnor did not relish blood and battle as the others do, of course he is careful to keep this from the mind of others. He closed his eyes and breathed deep of the salty air, the rocky island of his home now appearing over the horizon. Soon, the carnage of war would be an abominable hunger that will not be satisfied, and he will be ready.

Lucas walked beside him, surveying the growing island ahead of the The Blessed in Blood. "Good to be home, my lord. Your ship is near bursting. When the court of Greyjoy hears of the riches we brought back from across the sea, glory will be ours once more."

Donnor nodded. "It won't be long, Lucas. We have to make ready, ensure that all preperations are made."

"It will be done, my lord."

"As soon as we make landfall, send word of our victory to Balon. Let him curse our returning and look the cowardly fool for ever doubting this venture."

Lucas smiled. "Yes, my lord. We shall be home soon. The gifts of the Crow's Eye are generous. One such gift is waiting for you below."

The lord of Saltcliffe took a slow step away from the guard railing. "Good, I shall suffer this gift until the real prize is awarded to me."

"And what prize is that, my lord?"

The souls of my enemies, "The glory of my house restored, of course."

Donnor stepped down below, his eyes adjusting to the dim light of the cabin. Chained to a great iron spike was a dark haired woman, a slender build but eyes that held a strength greater than her body. Ynys was the girl's name, that much they got from her, but little else. She looked up defiantly and spat in Donner's face as he approached. He smiled at her spirit. He liked it better when they fight. With a swift slide of his hand, he untied his trousers and let them fall to the plank wood floor, letting his eyes fall upon her body, naked save for a ripped and torn tunic that barely covered her bits. Euron's gifts are generous indeed.



* * * * *​



Nearly an hour later, The Blessed in Blood reached the bustling port of Saltford, the small city which was ruled by his trusted vassal, Lucas. The port of Saltford was built upon the only landable shore of the island, the rest was protected by the jagged cliffs and rocks. The city stretched on atop a rocky hill, which was nestled against the base of a small mountain where Donnor's sire's had built their ancestral home, Salt End. The jagged peak continued skyward, high up over the castle towers. Lonely Peak it was called. Barren, inhospitable and unpleasant are all terms that have been used to describe the island, as well as its people, for that matter.

A small welcoming party had gathered on the pier to see the reaving party returned home. Lucas' wife and children were in attendance, some family of the lowborn reavers, as well as Qhored, Donner's master of coin. Qhored wore an elegant seal skin cloak and an iron circlet around his head. "My lord returns triumphant from the reaving, as I knew he would," declared Qhored as Donner disembarked from the ship.

"Leagues away across the narrow sea and I could still feel your tongue up my arse, Qhored," spat Donner.

"My lord jests. If loyalty is a fault, than consider me, most grievously flawed."

"Fine. Where is Todric? He has not come to welcome us?"

"Alas, our dear castellan has been in the most foul of temperments since your departure, my lord."

Donnor frowned. "I'll talk to him."

"Very good, my lord. Now, if we may get to the business at hand..." Qhored produced a quill and parchment from under his cloak and began to catalog all the treasure they brought back from the narrow sea. While he worked Donner joined Lucas whose busy hands were shamelessly fondeling his wife.

"I ordered a raven sent to Pyke, Lord Donner," smiled Lucas.

Donner kept his eye averted, "Good. Take a few hours to yourself, than join me at the castle to celebrate."

"Aye, my lord!" Lucas picked his wife up over his shoulder and walked into the city, his children trailing behind them.

Donner turned around to face the ship to find a couple of his reavers pulling Ynys down the plank as she struggled against them. Qhored shook his head and continued with his lists.

"Bring her here," orderd Donner.

The reavers dragged the woman before their lord and pushed her down on her knees. She had a split lip and blood trickled down her chin. The girl had hurt his broken arm earlier below deck, he had warned her, but when she insisted on striking his arm again, he gave her a hard back hand to pacify her. He glared down at his catch, she fearlessly returned his gaze. He motioned for the reavers to return to their duties aboard the ship, they bowed and obeyed.

Returning his eyes to Ynys, "You wish to leave?" She nodded. He pulled a dagger from his belt and slowly lowerd the blade to the binds around her wrist, with a quick jerk she was free. She looked up with puzzlement. He pulled her up and quickly turned her body around, so she faced the sea. He gripped the back of her neck tight as his body pressed up against her back. The grey waves of the sea lashed up angrily against the rocky shore. "There is the way home. You need only jump in and swim." His mouth hovered over her ear. "Go on, if you would like to meet my god.. feel his cold grip around your body." His hands groped the woman as her spirit broke and she began to tremble. "If it is his will, you may live. Maybe you will make it to one of the other islands. Not to be the saltwife of a lord, oh no. But a whore bound to some fat toothless man, to live under him until death finds you as an old ruined woman." Ynys was sobbing now. He turned her around and tenderly brusher her hair from her eyes. "You will learn to love me."

Donner kissed her and gently wrapped his cloak around her shivering body. With that he left her standing there and returned to Qhored.

"The jeweld sundial is for Lord Balon, as is the tyroshi daggers, the water-lion boots and the silver chest," dictated Donner.

"My lord gives the best of his treasures to our dear lord paramount, but what of his most trusted servants?"

With a sneer Donner tossed a bag of silvers to Qhored. His master of coin hummed and hawed as he fingered through the pouch. "Hmmm, silver is not really my colour." Donner sighed and flipped a gold coin at Qhored, who proceeded to smile, showing his brown rotted teeth. He bit the coin and slipped it beneath his cloak. "My lord is most generous."

"Shut up." Most self respecting Ironborn would scoff at such charity, preferring to pay the iron price themselves, but Qhored was different. He was less concerned with iron and more so with gold. He was lost reaving as a young man and had to serve as a sell-sword to earn his way home. Apparantly his mercenary troop valued toadies over swordsmiths.

Donnor turned to where he had left Ynys and smiled to see she was still there. He took her hand and led her up the widow's road to his castle. Widow's road was named so because it was a treacherous climb up the lonely peak. When the trek was made in dry weather the road was fine as long as one paid attention, but if not than the sheer cliffs and dagger like rocks would come calling for life and limb. He couldn't help but grin as she squeezed his hand tight as they climbed the winding road. She will learn to love me.



* * * * *​



At the castle, Donnor ordered casks of ale to be brought up for his reavers, to drink to their hearts content so long as they spent the night at the castle and none ventured the drunken walk down the widow's road. After he ordered Ynys brought to his chambers, he sat down to talk with his castellan, Todric.

Todric, a stout and older man whom served Donner's late lord father faitfhully, now sat with his arms crossed and frowning at the drunken lowborn reavers who now infested his lords castle. Donner sat down beside him and slapped his back, "Why so cheerless, Todric?"

The castellan's eyes glowered at Donner, "All my life, I have served your father faithfully, served you faithfully. Your house has always been loyal to house Greyjoy."

Donner pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation. He knew he should have kept his plans secret from Todric. "I am still loyal to Greyjoy.. just a different one."

"Balon is our lord paramount!" Snapped Todric, slamming his fist on the table. Some of the drunken reavers looked up from their cups.

Donner smiled and tried to make the exchange appear a jest. "Keep your voice down. Remember whom you serve."

"I serve you, my lord. Always and forever. Do you remember who you serve?"

"I will not kneel to a proud fool who will lead the isles to destruction, like in the last rebellion. A weakling who will give up his only heir to placate peace. I am Ironborn, and I follow strength. I follow Euron Greyjoy."

"Do you have any idea of what's been happening within the seven kingdoms since you left?"

"Our drunken sod of a king has fallen to a pig, to be replaced by his abomination of an heir, the spawn of an incestuous relationship between the Queen and her brother. Stannis and Renly both claim the throne of their late brother and the son of the traiterous hand has proclaimed himself King in the North."

Todrics mouth tightened. "The Crow's Eye sees far indeed. And just what is our reward for helping this man to the lordship of Pyke? Iron Mines? Reaving to our hearts content? Another iron rock in the sea?"

Donnor shook his head, "Iron, iron, iron. I bore of iron. I prefer... gold." Todric slowly smiled as he caught his lord's meaning. Donner leaned in close. "How about I open a bottle of my father's wine for us?"

Todric laughed. "That, my lord, I will not refuse."

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Warr

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Yeah, you're doing great- and it's got a great mirroring of the series' style.
 

BlackBishop

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THEODORE

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Theodore struggled to stay awake, the hold of sleep threatening to take him away as he sat at his seat in the council chamber of Crake's Hall. Rolph, the high lord's master of coin gave him a sharp jab to the ribs just as his head was about to fall upon the large oak table. He nodded his thanks to the grinning steward and looked up sheepishly at his surroundings. The room was one of simple elegance. Large open windows let in the crisp morning air along with the chirping of songbirds in the trees outside. Braziers burned in every corner of the room, brown and white tapestries emblazoned with the boar of house Crakehall lined the stone walls of the chamber. In the center was a large oak table, cut in a large disc. Bowls of fruit, a basket of warm blueberry tarts and pitchers of water sat in the center for the councellors in need of refreshment. Theodore reached for a green apple and took a large bite, the crisp snap of his teeth breaking the apple's skin filled the chamber. He chewed noisely as Rolph Spicer grinned and shook his head.

On the other side of Theodore sat Septon Benedict Balsdean, his lids too looked heavy under his bushy eyebrows, his unruly brown hair in dire need of a brushing comforted the master of whispers in knowing that he was not the only one on the council that did not enjoy these early morning meetings. Next to the septon was Wylland Greymarch, another septon who served as the castellan for Crake's Hall. His bald head rested on the knuckles of his hands as he waited for the meeting to get under way. Then came Ser Burton, Theodore's great-uncle and the realm's master of laws. Burton had recently come from Lord Tywin Lannister's campaign in the riverlands to hunt the remnants of the Hand's outlaws. Ser Burton slayed the lightening lord, Beric Dondarrion and as a result, Lord Tywin has rewarded him a brief reprieve in his homeland before he calls his levies for fresh troops to join him in Harrenhall. An empty chair that normaly held Theodore's father, Lyle Crakehall is next to Ser Burton. Then there is the lord's seat. It too is empty.

Finally Lord Heir Roland Crakehall enters the chamber. Theodore wipes the sweet apple juice from his chin as all the counsellors rise to greet the heir to Crakehall. "Please be seated," says Roland as he takes the seat of the lord. "I am sorry to keep you waiting, but I fear my father is unwell this morning and has asked for me to sit at this council in his stead." As heir to the hall, Roland was often a part of the chamber meetings, but in recent weeks, Lord Sumner has been absent from the proceedings entirely and sending Roland to administer the realm. As Lord Sumner's 80th name day approaches, he can be forgiven of his lack of commitement in the council, though Theodore only wished they could delay the proceedings until later in the morning, perhaps even noon. He took another bite of his apple as he sat down, tossing the core into the brazier, than looking in the empty chair, expecting to see a scolding look from his father, and only recieving another poke in his ribs from Rulph Spicer.

Roland ignored Theodore and continued on. "I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome my brother, Ser Burton back to this table after his victory in the Riverlands." The counsellors rapped their knuckles on the table in way of congratulations to their master of laws. Ser Burton bowed his head humbley to his peers around the table. "There have been some developments in the war, though, that you should all be aware of. Renly Baratheon has come to an untimely end, slain by one of his kingsguard, no less. From the reports we hear it was a woman, Brienne of Tarth..."

"This woman conspired with one of Renly's knights?" Questioned Wylland, the morning sun leaking through the window and shining on his bald head.

"No. Brienne of Tarth was the knight. It is said that Lady Catelyn, wife of the late hand who aided in her escape."

Septon Benedict shook his head, his eyes barely visible from under his eyebrows. "A woman knight? Never underestimate the treachery of woman, my lords. Renly was always a strange sort of fellow, a reckless philanderer of woman, I always knew it would come to a bad end for him."

Theodore leaned back in his chair. In truth the dear septon was far more reckless a wencher than poor Renly. It was whispered that Renly was closer to the heir of Highgarden, the Knight of Flowers, than to any of the adoring maidens whom sought his hand. As for this Brienne of Tarth, the report he handed Roland, his grandfather, was a little different. Theodore had heard far darker whispers on the true culprit. A shadowy ghoul in the shape of his older brother. He dare not share those reports here, especially if Roland decided to ignore them. He made a note to share it with his dear cousin, Summy. With his obsession with magic of late, he would find it of interest.

"Nevertheless," continued Roland, "Renly is dead, and the rule of the Stormlands falls on Lord Stannis of Dragonstone. Most of the Stormlands have sworn allegiance to the new lord paramount, and Stannis Baratheon now becomes the biggest threat to the King's peace throughout the realm. It is reasonable to think that his next target will be King's Landing. As for Reach, With Renly dead their alliance is dissolved, and have fled the field back to Highgarden."

"We must all say our prayers to the warrior for our dear Ser Lyle," chimes Wylland, septon and castellan. Septon Benedict's bushy eyebrows snap to attention and he quickly agrees.

Roland nods, "Yes thank you all, prayers for my son are needed in these times. Though you should know that Ser Lyle has been diverted from King's Landing and to the Riverlands to join Ser Tywin's host at his behest." There was a collective sigh of relief from the table. Theodore thought his father would be safer under the wing of Lord Tywin, rather than in that city with Stannis' horde bearing down on it.

"What of Lord Tywin, is he aware of these developments?" Asked Rulph Spicer to Roland, stroking his blond goatee.

"I'm assuming if we know, than so too does our Lord. Theodore, send some ravens just to be sure." Roland cleared his throat and took a drink of water. "Now then... With the Reach dazed out of the war, our concern is the Ironborn. Theodore?"

Theodore sighed. He knew this was coming. Not only was he tasked with the impossible mission of sending ravens to a warzone, he had to tell what the Ironborn have planned. The fact is, he just doesn't know what the slavers are up to. News from the islands had become non-existant since the war broke out. Silence from the historical enemies of his house was as terrifying, if not more so, than news of raiding parties bearing down on their shores. He did however recieve one report from a trader coming up the coast road... "We have had little news from the Iron Islands, though we did hear of a Dornish trade cog falling victim to a reaving party. A single ship bearing the banners of Greyjoy's bannermen, Saltcliffe. While an unsettling quiet from our northern neighbours is not a good sign, it is a comfort to know that they are still carrying on with their usual ways. The truth is that since their failed rebellion, they lack the strength to be of any real threat. In any case they would sooner attack the North, or House Baratheon than risk the wrath of our Lords of Lannister."

Roland nodded slowly. "Yes. I suppose you're right. Well than, on to more mundane court matters..."

Theodore swallowed hard. Seven, please make me right.
 
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BlackBishop

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MELWYN

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The warm afternoon sun beat down on the shoulders and head of Melwyn, formerly of House Falwell, as his horse lazily gallops up the road to the clinking lament of the chain around his neck. The air is clear and the warm day holds the secret of the rapidly approaching winter that is soon to befall the realm. Behind Melwyn is a cart being driven by two servants of the citadel. They were arguing over who killed Lord Renly, one believing it to be a giantess woman, the other insisting it was a demon brought forth by R'holler the eastern god. Melwyn could not wait to be free of these two. They had argued the whole way from Oldtown. At least now, their arguments had evolved to pertinant issues facing the realm, rather than the usual 'which lord's daughter would be the better tumble'.

The maester took his mind away from the ramblings of the servants and reminised on his graduation. He bit his lip bitterly as he remembered the faithful night, standing alone in the dark of the vault. He was marched into the room and sealed inside with three black obsidian candles. The room was pitch black, unable to see the candles, he dared not approach them. They were long black and jagged, able to cut a man's skin with the slightest touch. He stood in the dark, his hand to his throat, fingering his chain, the valyrian steel link. The darkness of the room was all consuming, a pitch black that seemed to tear at his very soul. As the hours passed, Melwyn realised why acolytes risked cuts to try and light the glass candles.

As time stretched on, the darkness began to weigh on his body, as if the void was tangable and heavy, forcing his shoulders to stoop and his knees to bend. He fought the temptation to let the dark push him to the floor, keeping himself on his feet, the blackness bearing down unbearably upon the man. It seemed he had been in the room for days, he wondered if the maesters were purposefully keeping him locked inside, as part of a cruel jape. Then he wondered if he was dead and locked in the arms of the stranger.

It was than that he saw it. A single spark in the deep dark. The small spark illuminated the room with a brilliant light. Melwyn stood in awe. Within an instant he was leagues away, flying overtop the Narrow sea. Clouds whizzed by as the earth rolled underneath, the waves of the clear blue water a blur beneath him. He found a raft two dead bodies floated within over the ocean. There was a gleam of sunlight reflected from within the raft, a piece of steel he thought. Than a shattering scream jolted him from the raft and he was flung back into his body in the black room. He gasped deeply. Now he really thought he had died. Melwyn began to panic. Wanted to escape the vault. His hand clung to his chain and he breathed deep, trying to calm himself.

He percieved a rift in the suffocating darkness, a green glow that grew until the room was all consumed by the corpse light. In the blink of an eye Melwyn was on the field of a battle. Bodies of dead soldiers, wearing brown and white coats were strewn across a blood red field. In the middle, standing on a hill was a woman. Her flesh was grey and withered, her eyes black and dead, competely naked with gaping wounds all over her body, ribs exposed and worms eating her flesh. In her hand she held a sword, the blade pulsed with an inner red light. A group of soliders advanced on the deathly woman. Her lips rotted away in a gaping smile as she deflected their blows with inhuman speed, cutting the head from one with one swift motion. She grabbed another by the throat, and sent a sickening snap through the air as she broke his neck and flung his lifeless body across the field. She hacked the arm off another one, his pained scream finally silenced when the edge of the sword ripped out his jugular, spraying his lifesblood over the woman and his comrades.

Melwyn watched in utter horror as the scene played out before him. The Black eyes of the woman fell upon him. A terrible scream sounded and his head felt as if it would burst, but it wasn't coming from her. No, it was coming from the sword. Soliders rushed the woman as she stared into Melwyn's eyes. They hacked off her head, arms and legs, all the while, her eyes remained fixed on Melwyn and if it weren't for her rotted lips, he would swear she was smiling. With another jolt he was surrounded by darkness once more, back in the vault.

Melwyn's breath came in shallow rasps. His hands covered his eyes, refusing to see more. He felt he might cry, holler, cut out his eyes, anything to stop this. He felt like he was going mad. Slowly his hands dropped as a pale blue light flashed. An army marched across the land, leaving farm field burnt and scorched. Villages were razed to the ground and masses of people were put to the sword. The roads of Westeros were lined with the heads on spikes, rivers ran red with blood, flies and carrion gorged themselves on the corpses of the innocent. Cities burned, castles crumbled, all the land was death and destruction and above it all, standing on a peak and watching with ravenous delight was a single man. His lips curled up in a smile as he held the sword, pulsing with a red light. The man turned to face Melwyn. His eyes were black as death and swallowed Melwyn up just as Maesters released him and congratulated him on passing the final test, and being humbled in the final lesson. if only they knew.

The japes and taunts an alcolyte endured for earning his valyrian link were endless. After he graduated to maester, he was treated with a cool disdain, and kept at an arms length from the others. Finally the day came when he recieved his appointment. He sat in the solar of Arch-maester Marwyn. The senior maester regarded him thoughtfully, white hair protruding from his ears and nose. Melwyn would think he looked comical, with his crooked nose, broad shoulders and heavy gut, if he didn't respect him so much.

Finally the Arch-Maester opened his mouth and said, "I'm sending you to Crakehall."

"Crakehall?" The vision in the vault flashed before his eyes, the brown and white banners. "Exactly where I need to go," he had blurted out. He flushed in embarassment.

Marwyn smiled, revealing blood red teeth. "I know."

It may have been his imagination, but he thought he percieved a spark from the jade glass candle upon his desk.

His horse trodded over a hill, as the servants continued their argument behind him. Through the trees he saw a large stone castle upon a raised hill. Crake's Hall. Exactly where I need to be.
 
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BlackBishop

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YNYS

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She had only been among the Ironborn for two months, but already aspects of her old life were forgotten. Being an orphan, Ynys supposed this came as no surprise. She had set out from her home town, Mullford, after being set loose from the orphanage on her fifteenth birthday with nothing but a haunch of bread and a blessing of the Mother, that went unheard. After days of walking she reached Old Town. She didn't know where she was going or what exactly she wanted to do with her life. At the time, she had felt a calling from the sea. She had read many stories in the orphanage, of strange and wonderful places across the water, and of the adventure's that took place on the high sea, and she desperatly wanted to lay her eyes on the ocean.

It was so beautiful and terrifying for this girl, who had only ever known the small walls of that mud brick building in Mullford, to set eyes on something so vast, it stretched across the whole world. She wondered what secrets lay beneath those rushing waves. It was in the city of Old Town that she procured a job on a Dornish merchant ship, bound for Essos. The fat pig of a captain had hired her to keep the books. Only too late did she realize he intended to sell her into slavery across the narrow sea. The crew of the ship were unbearably cruel to her, but the captain did protect her to an extent, if only to keep her maidenhead for whomever purchased her.

After months at sea they came to the Free Cities. She was marched in front of a terrifying man with blue lips and a smiling eye. He looked her over and argued with the captain. She wasn't sure what went wrong, but the next thing she knew she was stowed below deck and they were sailing back to Westerose. She awoke one day to hear fighting on the deck above her cell. The clash of steel and cries of dying men rang in her ears. Then her door burst open to splinters and brutish men with rough hands carried her off. She didn't have any illusions of a rescue, she assumed they were slavers, and she was right.

That's when she lost her maidenhead, to the iron lord with his pale blue eyes, the colour of the sea on a cold morning. Her romantic fantasies of princes and chivalry were gone in an instant as he slapped her hard across the face and took her roughly as she was chained below the deck of their ship. She hated him for that. This man who was capable of such gentleness and at the same time, incredibly hard and unyeilding. She had resolved to kill this man, Even after she was brought to his island and shown no way of escape.

Since landing on Saltcliffe Isle, she had been confined to the castle, spending her days in lessons learning the ways of the Ironborn. She had to admit, she respected their culture. They were a strong people, whom showed incredible fierceness upon their enemies and yet upheld a rigid code of honour. As the days past she began to identify with her captors. She shared their strength, their love and respect of the sea, and before long she forgot she was an orphan of the Reach. Her nights were spent with Lord Donnor. Her initial resentment of the man gave way under his sea blue eyes and with each passing night she felt him awaken something in her... an intense lust that she couldn't resist as hard as she may try. She surrendered to the passion and to the lord, night after night. Yet, in the back of her mind she never forgot her resolution, to kill this man.

After nearly two months of being a prisoner of Salt End she was given freedom of the Island, and named the Saltwife of Lord Donnor of Saltcliffe.

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Carefully, Ynys made her way down the Widow's road. A gentle ocean mist had settled over the island earlier that morning, making the journey down the path treacherous even with her guide, Sigrin. He was a kind man, for an Ironborn, and held her hand gently yet firm as they made their way across a narrow slick ridge, the angry waves of the sea lashed up at the jagged rocks below, beckoning her to join them. She lost her footing and would have fell if Sigrin didn't pull her up and press her against the cliff wall.

"Careful, my lady. Many a life has been lost to those rocks below, I told you this trip was folley. Bad weather is coming and you would be safer to wait a few days before venturing the island."

Ynys took a deep breath. "I have been locked in Salt End for long enough. I will see this island and feel the salt breeze."

Sigrin smiled, "Spoken like a true Ironborn, my lady."

They continued on. Finally the narrow ridge gave way to a broader path. However the road sloped downward to a steep drop. The slick sheen of the rocky path threatened to speed her to the Drowned God.

"Keep to the left," warned Sigrin. "Follow my lead." Her hand tight into his, he led her across the tilted road. Her feet slipped upon the wet rocks but Sigrin's strong grip kept her on her feet and guided her safely to the other side. Then they came to the steps, narrow four foot falls that set her brow to sweating and her will to doubt this trip out of Salt End. She clenched her jaw and kept forward. She had to sit down in the mud and slowly lower herself over the steps, Sigrin lead the way and held her hips tight as they descended, one by one. This went on for an agonizing amount of time, until they finally reached the bottom. From than on it was much like any other mountain road, rocky and uneven, but relatively safe. Finally they reached the port where she first landed on the isle. She looked up at Salt End, the lonely peak rising up above it. She beamed happily at her successful journey down the Widow's road. "Well done, my lady. I shall wait for you here. Take your time but know that the climb will be next to impossible by nightfall, so best be back by than."

Ynys made her way onto the pier. The wooden dock housed about a dozen ships, and out in the sea several others were anchored. She saw the The Blessed in Blood, The Salty Wench, The Bruiser, The Serpentine, The Ugly Maid, and The Red Reaver but not the ship she was looking for, the one she spied when first coming to the island.

She learned from the harbour master that there were more ships anchored in Lonely Cove, particularily the foreign vessels that were not allowed to leave the Iron Isles by order of the Lord Paramount. The sailors, for the most part, spent their days drinking and pining within Saltford. She made her way into the city. In truth, Saltford wasn't much of a city. There couldn't have been more than two thousand people living within, but there was an iron mine, shops and taverns and a small castle. She climbed the far wall of the city, and spied the ship she had been looking for in the cove. Blowing in the breeze was a banner, with an oaken escutcheon studded with iron, a field bendy of undulating blue and white. A banner of The Reach.

After making some inquiries, Ynys learned that the Reach captain spent his days in an Inn, drinking and wenching to pass the time until the order was given for his ship's release. Ynys walked into the dim tavern, her eyes scanning the room. It was a low stone building, with a bar that stretched along the length of the right wall, tables for patrons on the left, with rooms for guests on the far side. The inn had been taken over by sailors of the Reach. Many slept on the floor or haunched over the bar or tabletops. The only Ironborn that she could see was the lone serving wench and inkeeper. Too early yet for the isle whores. She was thankful that so few ironborn were within, less of a chance she would be discovered.

In the corner of the room, sitting with several others, was a large man, wearing a fine grass-cat fur cloak, long brown hair and thick side whiskers that ran down his cheeks. A bushy mustache concealed his entire mouth as it curled up into great rings on either side. This must be the captain. The burly man leaned forward after his brown eyes met hers, and said something bawdy to his friends, and they all broke out into laughter.

Ynys stood at the bar and ordered a mug of warm ale. the Reach captain called out from his table, "I'll buy whatever the fine lass is drinking, if she will pleasure us with her company."

"She will," smiled Ynys as she slowly walked to the table and sat down on the lap of the large man. He laughed merrily as his hands felt her curvy hips. The next few minutes were spent making introductions. The captain's name was Harol Falwell, a merchant sworn to sevice of House Hewett of the Reach. He had come to Saltcliffe shortly before Ynys arrived to trade furs and spices. Like the islanders she met in Old Town, Falwell too, was a proud seaman, boasting of his prowess at oar and sail. She could use his pride to her advantage.

Before the captain could get too drunk, she whispered in his ear of her desire to be alone with him. His mustache twitched excitedly and he rose to his feet and led her to his room. He sat down on the hard bed and motioned for her to join him. She remained standing by the door. "I have a proposition for you," she said.

Falwell's mustache seemed to smile. "Ahh yes lass, anything this captain can do for you."

"How long have you been here, on Saltcliffe?"

"Long enough to get lonely, my sweetling," he patted the bed beside him insistantly.

"Must have been over two months. How long before they finally decide you eat and drink too much of their rations and decide to kill you all?"

Harol Falwell's eyes darkened, he stood up from the bed and looked at the young girl crossly, "What do you want?"

"Freedom from iron."

"What are you proposing?"

"I shall kill Lord Donnor, and we escape in the ensuing choas."

Falwell took a step toward her, bristeling. "Why should I risk it? Why not stay and drink and live?"

"Because if you stay, you will die, and you know it. How many of your crew remain?"

The captain sighed and sat back down on the bed. "Forty we were when we set out from Hewett's Town. Two were slain when they took my ship. The damnable Lord Sunderly has hung another four of my lads and eight he locked up in stocks, for drunk and disorderly. Drunk and disorderly?! On this isle? Pah!"

"You must do something soon, Captain or the rest of you will follow."

"There is a storm coming, once it passes..."

"No, it has to be tonight. We will not get another chance. I have heard their plans, winds and waves will rack the islands then give way to clear skies and calm waters, and you and your men will be dead." If I wait any longer I will lose my nerve.

"Sail in the storm? That is folly!"

"A shield-islander fretting like a babe from a storm? You prefer to remain and die in fear than brave the lightening and waves?"

Harol Falwell rose to his feet and stepped toward Ynys, staring thoughtfully at her. "You play a dangerous game lass. Are you sure you can see it through?"

She returned his hard gaze and raised her chin confidently. "He captured me, he beat me, he raped me, and for that, Lord Donnor will die."



* * * * *



The sun had set and a deep darkness settled over the Iron Islands. A wailing wind carried stormclouds over the homes of the Ironborn, and waves, high and angry, slammed into the shores. As villagers made for high ground and shelter, Ynys was safe within Salt End.

As she climbed the long winding stairs to the Council Tower, her hand gripped a small vial within her pocket. The instructions of Harol Falwell repeated in her mind.

"You must empty the whole vial," he had said. "Stir it into a drink, and make sure he empties his glass. The poison will not take long, maybe an hour or two. A natural death it will look, so there should be no suspicions. When it is done, scream and cry, whatever you can to cause a commotion. Escape the castle, make for the docks, where I will be waiting. I set sail at midnight, whether or not you are there. Make no mistake, lass, I will leave you behind."

Her feet felt as if they were made of lead as she climbed the stairs. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for what lay ahead. Finally she reached the top, where a gaurd let her in the chamber beyond.

The councils of Lord Donnor were not at all how she imagined such meetings of lordly men. The sounds coming from the chamber are that more akin to a tavern or a brothel. A large table off to the side is overflowing with bottles of wine, casks of ale, shark steaks, boiled seaweed and squid rolls, shrimp swimming in butter, clam soup and fried eels. Donel lay drunk on the floor with a hound. Manfyrd sits off to the corner with a wench on his lap, suckling shamelessly on the girl's breasts. While Sigrin, seemingly the only sober courtier in attendence, leans against a wall and nods in greeting to her as she enters. The councillors sit around a large gold jeweled sundial, out of place in the plain, unordained chamber. There was Qhored, the steward, singing a bawdy song between drinks of wine; Skyte an advisor who always seemed to speak in whispers, but was now loudly demanding the silence of Qhored; Romny with a bundle of scrolls laid out before him and a wench rubbing his shoulders as he poured over the parchments; Todric who sat to the left of the lord's chair, frowning and looking none to pleased; Lord Lucas Sunderly, sitting to the right of the Lord's chair in a place of high honour, draining a flagon of spice wine; and finally sat Lord Donnor, a great shark's skull mounted above his seat, his sea blue eyes intently watching Ynys as she enters, he nods toward the table and raised his empty mug.

Ynys fingers the vile in her pocket as the council behind her mock and jape the off tune singing of Qhored. She takes a deep breath, fills the mug with the dark red wine, and hands it to Lord Donnor. He pulls her onto his lap and sips from the mug, mulling the blood red liquid around in his hand, before taking another deep drink.

Qhored finished his song on a high note which invited the boos and jeers of all the council.

"That has to be the worst singing of A Cask of Ale I ever heard!" Said a thoroughly disgusted Skyte.

"What's that Skyte? You want an encore?" Asked Qhored, his eyes glassy from the wine.

Lucas Sunderly shook his head, "Sing that song again and I shall throw you from the tower." Qhored fell silent.

Lord Donnor sipped his mug of wine, it was now half full. "What news of the war, Lucas?"

Lucas grabbed a map scroll on the floor beside him and let it fly out over the sundial. It was a map of the North. "Damphair and Cleft-jaw have won a victory at Stoney Shore, here, our first victory against the northeners.

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"Our latest news suggests that Cleft-jaw has marched east, to take Torrhen's Square, here.

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"Meanwhile, Lady Asha's forces have landed at Deepwood Moat and lay seige to the holdfasts there.

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"And our bold Lord Victarion has begun his seige of Moat Cailin, thus giving our forces a grip on the neck, and cutting of the young wolf from his supply lines."

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Donnor nooded along as he inspected the map. "It goes well for our Lord Balon. Seems he has caught the Northmen completely unawares."

"What I wouldn't give for a piece of the fight," said Sigrin.

The lord of Saltcliffe took a sip of his wine, now just below half full. "You will get your chance, we all will."

Qhored hiccuped and popped a squid roll into his mouth, his hand running along the sundial. "I thought you gave this to Lord - excuse me - King Balon?"

Todric snorted, "not all men eagerly accept the vanity of gold, Qhored. True men of iron prefer to pay the iron price."

Donnor fixed Todric under a cool stare. "Yes, Todric, Balon refused the sundial... but tell me, where is the silver chest, or the tyroshi daggers?"

The castallen only shrugged and turned to Lucas. "Tell me, my lord, what of Theon Greyjoy? Your report is decidedly absent of his doings in this war."

Lord Lucas exchanged a quick look with Lord Donnor and sighed, "He has taken Winterfell."

crakehall15.jpg

"Aye, with but a token force, too," said Todric.

"Perhaps Iron runs in that boy's blood, afterall," chimed Romny.

Donnor shook his head. "Does it? He has taken Winterfell, but what does he do. Sit's there, with his handful of men and declares himself prince of the north. Make no mistake, the boy has forgotten the Old Ways and is more wolf than kraken." For a moment Todric and Donnor fixed each other with a cold stare, finally Todric averted his eyes and looked down at his drained cup. Donnor turned his attention to Skyte. "We go ahead with our plan. How many will support The Crow's Eye upon his return?"

Skyte cleared his throat and began talking in a whisper, so all had to lean forward to hear his words. "Sadly, I must report that your brother-in-law, Lord Botely is most ferverant in his support of Balon Greyjoy. However, I have spoken to Lord Reaver Gorold of Great Wyck and he has voiced his support of Euron, should events of a disasterous nature befall our King."

crakehall16.jpg

With one last deep drink of wine, Donnor slammed his empty mug down on the golden sundial. "Good, we needed but one Reaver Lord to support Euron. Now we must trust in him to take care of the rest." The lord of the island rose to his feet, Ynys followed close behind. "We have gone too far to falter now. When the time comes, we shall be ready and power and riches abound for us whom served the rightful King of the Iron Island." Donnor led Ynys to the door, but he stopped short and fixed Todric with his cool stare once more. The castallen met his gaze and bowed his head slightly, and with that the lord and his saltwife left the chamber.



* * * * *




The lords bedchamber in Salt End was truly indicative of an Ironborn lord. Braziers burned in every corner of the room to fend off the cool ocean breeze that blew in from the large windows. A hearth burned warm and bright from the southwall, just opposite of the large canopy bed, cut from whale bone, Donnor lay naked within, waiting for his saltwife.

Ynys peeled off her tunic and trousers, revealing the creamy skin of her body, climbing into the bed with this man who had captured her in the Summer Sea. As the lightening flashed and wind roared outside the chamber, she lay warm and comfortable in the arms of Donnor. She placed a vial into his hand. He inspected it, turned it over in his hand, eyeing the cloudy liquid that filled the vial. His ocean blue eyes stared into hers as he tossed it into a brazier, the glass popping from the heat.

Countless grisley scenarios played out in her mind. Would he slit her throat, throw her from the lonely peak, lock her up for the rest of her days, or give her to the Drowned God? Donnor raised his hand to her throat, squeezed gently as he pressed his lips to hers. She gasped as he slid inbetween her legs, her fingers running through his short cropped hair, raking against the lean muscles of his back.

She was an orphan of The Reach turned slave. Now she was a saltwife to a Lord of the Ironborn, master of reaving and the sea, and there was no other place she would rather be.

crakehall17.jpg
 
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AON

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Hi Bishop. Good story you got going on. Keep at it!
 

Rabid Bogling

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Oh my. Have you considered writing erotica, Bish? Riding on the tails of 50 Shades of Grey you could make a bomb.

I'm looking forward to the next update.
 

DisgruntledLemming

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Very much so enjoying the AAR! and glad to see that it focuses on both sides of the two primary families, something rather (surprisingly so) rare in GoT AARs, but understandable. It reminds me of SoIaF a bit, the writing style, in that I can't exactly pinpoint exactly where this is going to go (That's a good thing in my book. ;) )
 

BlackBishop

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SUMNER

crakehall24.jpg

A cool breeze blew across the high hill, sending shivers down Summy's spine. He pulled his cloak up under his chin to ward off the cold air. The bright sun peeking through clouds was betrayed by the northly cold wind. He sat cross legged as an expansive view of the rolling hills and dense forests of his family's land stretched on from view. To the west were the deep blue waters of the ocean, its rolling waves splashing up against the sandy shore in a sweet melody. The waters now calm after the storm a fortnight ago. To the north stand the deep green forests of Crakehall, that expand to the holdfasts of Lord Gerwain Hawthorne, sworn bannerman to House Crakehall. East was the rocky hills, hard and rugged, that rolled to the lands of Ser Raynard Yew and Ser Joffrey Falwell. Ser Joffrey had marched with his uncle, Lyle Strongboar. Last news they had heard, the two had reached Harrenhall and were now under Lord Tywin's command. Standing above Summy, peering to the sea was a carved bust of Lord Sumner Crakehall, with a short epitaph carved below as he maintained his watch on the west.

crakehall23.jpg

It had been nearly two weeks since Lord Sumner passed, his breath giving out in his sleep. A peaceful end to a Westerland high lord in these turbulent times as a violent storm racked the western shores. Summy's grandfather, Roland, was now Highlord of Crakehall, and his first orders had been to raise the army and march north, where a large force had gathered under Stafford Lannister, to train and prepare for an invasion of the Riverlands. Roland had been part of Tywin's host that participated in the sack of King's Landing during Robert Baratheon's war. Summy suspects that his grandfather desires to recapture the glory of that victory. A rude and selfish man, Summy had little confidence of his grandfather's ability to lead, less still in Stafford Lannister, the commander of the northern army. From what he knew of the man, he was proud and stubborn. All he could do was pray to the warrior that a quick end would befall the young wolf and Stannis Baratheon and this war would end.

Summy took a deep breath of the chilly air, and looked down to the heavy book that lay in his lap. An Account of Crakehall. He opened the old tomb and, after licking his thumb, he turned the pages to the middle of the book...

The War of the Black Witch

It was soon after the thaw of a short winter, nearly thirty years before Aegon's Landing. Westeros was still divided into seven kingdoms and King of the Rock, Martyn Lannister ruled Westerland. A mysterious force had invaded from The Reach and burned villages and farmlands from Crakehall, to Cornfield and even as far north as Lannisport. However the elusive invasion force never attacked castles but kept their operations limited to small villages and holdfasts. Entire townsfolk would disappear within a night only to have their remains found days later in what appeared to be mass ritual killings.

The attacks were not confined to Westerland, however. The Reach, Dorne and The Stormlands had all had similar happenings over the course of a decade. In a rare move of cooperation, Westermen, Reachmen, Stormmen and Dornish formed a joint army to move freely through borders and find those responsible for the killings and bring them to justice.

It was in the hills of Crakehall that the army finally tracked the one responsible, a woman, believed to be of Valyrian origin, with a small force of raiders and sell-swords. The killers were surrounded on a high hill by the joint army and their surrender was demanded by the superior force. What happened next is the matter of much debate. It is said by the superstitious smallfolk that fire rained down from the sky, great worms sprung from the ground to swallow men whole, corpses rose from the dead in defense of the woman, an undead witch with awesome powers. She led a decisive counter attack that sent the joint army into route.

Indeed an impressive sortie from the hill was conducted by the Valyrian woman, and many lives were lost including Crown Prince Tybolt Lannister. However, it was the force led by House Crakehall that stood thier ground and turned the counter attack. The force surrounded the woman on the hill and charged, killing her and what remained of her supporters. It is unknown what exactly the objectives of the "Black Witch", as she had come to be called among the smallfolk, were. Most maintain that she was a slaver who sacrificed others to a mysterious valyrian diety.

Though not much of a war, this conflict was a prime example of cooperation among the free kingdoms even before thier unification by Aegon the Conqueror. The horrors of the conflict were heavily engrained in noble and smallfolk alike, even to this day it is a common disiplinary tool among tutors and parents to threaten an unruly child with the Black Witch. Some claim the witch lives to this day, and roams the land in search of victims...


A twig snaps behind Summy, he turns and finds Melwyn, the new maester, has come upon him as he was reading the book.

"Good afternoon, my lord," said the Maester in greeting.

Summy quickly closes the book and rises from the ground. "Melwyn, what are you doing here?"

"I came to pay my respects to Lord Sumner, is that a problem?"

"No, of course not. You just startled me is all."

Melwyn bowed his head in contrition. "My apologies, my lord."

Summy was not a man to scare easily, however the latest passage he had read, and the unsettling nightmares he had been having of late were doing much to strain his constitution. He flushed in embarrasment as Melwyn gazed at the bust of Lord Sumner.

"Lord Sumner died shortly after I arrived," said Melwyn. "Tell me, what sort of man was he?"

"He was a good man. Loved his family and prone to stubborness in his watch of the west."

"Yes, I understand that Sumner and Roland disagreed on the realms contribution to the war."

"I don't know. I was never privy to such. I know we are contributing far more now that Roland is High Lord."

Melwyn raised his hood as a gust of cool wind blew past the hill. "I would have liked to have known him better. I feel there was much I could have learned from him." Melwyn turned to Summy, eyeing the heavy book he had tucked under his arm. "An Account of Crakehall. That seems like a good start, may I?"

Summy reluctantly handed the book to Melwyn. The maester leafed through the pages. It seemed to Summy that he had stopped for a moment at the passage of The Black Witch, but it could have been his imagination. The previous maester had been a close friend of Summy and he had great respect for the order. Had he not been in line to inherit Crakehall he would have probably left to join the order years ago. It was probably because of this that Summy found himself blurting out personal held secrets as the two men descended the hill and began walking north along the Ocean Road toward Crake's Hall. "May I confide in you, Maester Melwyn?"

The maester nodded. "Of course, my lord. I have been pledged to sevice to your house. Many years from now, when you inherit the lord's seat at Crake's Hall, I shall be at your side with counsel and loyal service. So it is very much my hope, that you will confide in me."

The rocky ground gave way to a broad, smooth road. To the right were jagged hills and to the left were the sandy beaches bordering the ocean. Summy let to smell of the sea fill his nostrils. "I have been having bad dreams of late."

"Is that so? Well, fret not, my lord. In times such as these, it is not uncommon to be plagued by bad dreams."

"Yes but these don't seem to be of the usual sort. It is always the same dream night after night." Melwyn gave him a curious glance, beckoning him to tell him more. "I dream that I am standing on this very shore. A great storm rolls over the land from the sea. The salt waters lash up angrily and sweep me away. I am drowning, unable to breath as I sink deeper and deeper into this abyss, this total blackness. I perceive that there is a light at the bottom, on the ocean floor. I reach for it, deperatly as I choke. I feel that if i may grab it, and hold it, I will be saved. I find that it is a sword. On the hilt, is a skull that... that laughs at me as the light fades to red and I am swallowed up. Then I wake. It is always the same."

Melwyn's eyes flicker strangly as he listens. "Curious. Dreams are often our own deep desires leaking through our own repressions. The sea, is probably the war. It has already taken your uncle Lyle, your great-uncle Burton, now you grandfather Roland has been swept up in it. The sword is likely your own desire to fight, you think by fighting you may save your sires, but the reality is that you cannot, and it threatens to sweep you up as well."

"But I have no desire whatsoever to fight in this war."

"Do you? Are you sure? When a desire is so fervently repressed it can manifest in dreams as the one you describe. Think long and hard..."

They are interrupted by an arm that protrudes from a shrub ahead of them. Sumner grabs the limb and drags the body of a man out onto the road. Melwyn opens the mans tunic and rests his head on his chest, listening for a heartbeat. He than begins pumping the man's chest, pinching his nose and breathing into his mouth. This goes on for a minute. Sumner spies a badge on the man's tunic. An oaken shield, studded in iron, before a field of blue and white.

The man chokes and spits as life returns to him, he gasps for air. "The Ironborn... They are coming!"
 
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BlackBishop

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Oh my. Have you considered writing erotica, Bish? Riding on the tails of 50 Shades of Grey you could make a bomb.

I'm looking forward to the next update.

lol thanks Rabid. That was the toned down version, the original was scraped after I realized this isn't penthouse forum.

Thanks Etzel and Savoy. I'm glad you are enjoying the aar.