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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
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Henry v. Keiper

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Introduction

A while ago, I started rereading my House of Threedrop AAR. I was actually pretty proud of it, and had forgotten how well received it was. (Even if it ended up being so depressing some people took to questioning whether or not I was George R.R. Martin in disguise.) I’d also felt like I hadn’t done some creative writing in a long time, and the Threedrop AAR was indeed fun to do. I’d also forgotten how fun the Game of Thrones mod was for Crusader Kings II. (Seriously, mod-makers, if you’re reading this, you did an astounding job.) I decided to venture back in, both to do some creative writing, and also just to have some fun with the universe.

This AAR will be more in the vain of the Threedrop AAR. After some consideration of where to start it, I decided to start it at the Dance of the Dragons, which starts in 129 AL, some 169 years before the events in the first Song of Ice and Fire book. (You can read about the actual, canonical conflict here.) I chose this starting point partially because I haven’t seen it done in a lot of other AARs, and also because it presents a nice what-if scenario where Westeros could go into a different direction. I’ve also created my own house, like I did with Threedrop, this time with a Valyrian character to start off with. Their family crest will have a unicorn on it, partially because I’d played around with unicorn crests in the past, and partially because I have a two-year old daughter who likes unicorns.

In addition to the Game of Thrones mod, I’ll be using most of the expansions for Crusader Kings II, except for the Aztec stuff, as well as the Conclave DLC. As always, my only hope is that people enjoy what they read.

Awards / Recognitions

WritAAR of the Week
Best Character Writer of the Week
AARs Inspired by This One

Table of Contents
Chapter 7: Rhaena
Chapter 8: Rhaekar
Chapter 9: Albar
Chapter 10: Andrian
Chapter 11: Rhaekar
Chapter 12: Rhaena
Chapter 13: Rhaekar
Chapter 14: Albar
Chapter 15: Rhaekar
Chapter 16: Elonne
Chapter 17: Annara
Chapter 18: Elonne
Chapter 19: Rhaekar
Chapter 20: Rhaena
Chapter 21: Annara
Chapter 22: Rhaekar

Part II: The Black Unicorn
Chapter 1: Albar
Chapter 2: Laena
Chapter 3: Andrian
Chapter 4: Alyssa
Chapter 5: Annara
Chapter 6: Albar
Chapter 7: Alyssa
Chapter 8: Rhaena
 
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iisbroke

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Damn that's a cool AAR logo
 

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Part 1: The Unicorn Prince

Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 1
Rhaekar


The waves crashed against the pale cliffs, exploding into a flurry of mist and foam. The sound rose up against the chalky wall, the crash of the water transformed into a roar as if the sea were challenging the land to a duel. At the very top of the cliff was a tall man decked in a crimson and gold shirt under a dark green doublet. White tights clung to his legs, ending with black boots that rested on the green plains leading up to the cliffs. The man felt the wind from Blackwater Bay brush against this flesh, from the ear to his cheeks. The strands of his hair, as white as the cliffs below him, trailed over his face like the fingers of an adoring lover. It was silky, soft, and relaxing. His violet eyes stared down at the waters, watching the waves of the blue sheet shift back and forth in a rhythmic pattern.


The man lifted his eyes and gazed out at the bay itself. The sky was already overcast, with the heavens as gray as the sea was blue. Out towards the narrow sea, clouds as dark as night were approaching the land. A low rumble came from the horizon, with lightning splashing across the darkness in a sporadic manner. As his violet eyes gazed at the scene, the man’s lips curled upwards. They continued to widen, at last displaying two rows of ivory teeth. They parted, and at once, laughter left the man’s throat.

“They did it,” he remarked. “They actually went through with it.”

“My lord?”

The man, Rhaekar Valzyren, turned his head to look behind. A man in brown robes, with a large metal chain wrapped around his throat, stood there beside two horses. The beasts were mulling about, eating the grass, while the man held a large piece of wood with a parchment upon it. A quill rested in the man’s hand, end resting on the paper.

“Just thinking aloud, Albar,” Rhaekar said. His eyes turned back to the ocean. “What does all your training at the Citadel make of this?”

The maestar took a few steps away from the horses. He held up the quill, the feathery end pointed at the horizon. “This will definitely head our way. It will crush against us, and it will, for a while, be rough, but I think as soon as it makes landfall in earnest, it will simply die down.”


Rhaekar’s violet eyes shifted from one end of the horizon to the other. His long, silver hair danced about his face. “Yes, I think you are right.” He paused. “It will make landfall, and then everything will simply resolve itself.” A hand shrouded in a leather glove reached up, brushing the locks to the other side of his head, clearing it from his face.

The maestar turned his attention to the horses. Their tails were starting to flick, and soft grunts left their throats. “I think, all the same, it best we return to the Dun Fort, my lord. My studies are completed, and the horses seem to be getting disturbed by the coming storm.” He turned back to his lord and smiled. “Besides, it is almost supper time, as I recall.”

“Ah yes, it is,” Rhaekar said. “I believe Tristifer began having a pig roasted for us, before we left.”

The maester gathered the horses together and permitted his lord to mount first. Albar slipped the wooden plank into a saddlebag on his own horse, then rolled up his parchment and slipped it into his sleeve. As soon as he was mounted on his own horse, the two men rode away from the chalky cliffs. Rhaekar took one last backward glance at the storm, then turned back to his route. Ahead of them, at the area where the cliffs turned downward into the harbor, was the Dun Fort itself. The familiar drum towers rose up above the walls. Standards flapped in the wind above each tower, their wing-like noise heard louder and louder as the two men drew closer. Each standard had a burgundy field, with a white unicorn in an upraised salient position.

As the two men drew closer, the footmen at the portcullis turned and shouted something through the iron gates. At once, a cranking sound came from within the fort, accompanied by the portcullis rising up. Rhaekar was a few seconds away from riding inside when a portly man in armor came out. He was decked in chain mail armor that bulged near his belly, exposing the black leather armor underneath. A broad sword rested on the man’s back, the handle decorated in the color scheme of House Byrch.


“My lord,” the man began, “it is not wise to go out these days with so little a guard.”

“Why not, Lord Monford?” Rhaekar asked. He brought his horse to a stop, then slipped off the side. “Do the people suddenly hate me? Take my horse, please.”

Monford opened and closed his mouth, as if about to say something, but thinking otherwise. He turned to one of the footmen, then motioned with his head to the horse. The footman nodded, then walked over and took a hold of the bridle. As he led the beast back into the fort, Albar followed in afterward, still on horseback. The master-at-arms cleared his throat as he turned back to Rhaekar. “It is not the people I fear, my lord. It is those outside Duskendale who might not like you.”

Rhaekar slipped off his gloves as he moved under the portcullis, with Monford following closely behind. As soon as they were through the gates, the portcullis began to lower. The cranking drowned out the soft clinking of Monford’s boots. “Who might not like me outside Duskendale?”

“Annara has brought back reports from her agents,” Monford continued. “House Rosby has thrown in with Rhaenyra, and she is rumored to have landed at Crackclaw Point. That will turn Aegon’s attention to his north, where we are.”

“Very wise of him,” Rhaekar said.

“And there are rumors you intend to raise your banners and join with Rhaenyra.” Monford narrowed his eyes. “Is this true?”

Rhaekar came to a stop. He stood before the double doors leading into the main hall of Dun Fort. In his hands, his gloves had been rolled up together, and were being tapped against his palm. He pursed his lips a moment, his violet eyes staring off into space. In the distance, he could hear the crackle of thunder as the storm grew closer. “I have considered it.”

Monford inhaled. “Petyr Grell came again today, while you were out. He is concerned about Duskendale being caught in the conflict. If we side with Rhaenyra, and Aegon comes here-”

“And what if we side with Aegon, and Rhaenyra comes here?” Rhaekar turned towards his master-at-arms, an eyebrow raised. “Or what if either one of them interprets neutrality for complacency?” Another crackle of thunder, much closer than before. “Believe me, Lord Monford, when I say I have considered the situation heavily. Rhaenyra was promised the throne by her father Viserys. Aegon and his supporters claim that Viserys broke precedence, and a male should inherit. Now Aegon has the North, the Vale, and countless other lords opposing him, while Rhaenyra faces the Westerlands, the House of Hightower, and the Three Whores or whatever in the Seven Hells they call themselves over in Essos.”


Left: Lords opposing Aegon (not including the North); Right: Lords opposing Rhaenyra

Monford cut in. “My lord, the Three Daughters have countless ships, and thousands of men ready to strike. They will cover all the Crownlands with their soldiers if we inspire their wrath.”

“Do they have dragons?” Rhaekar asked.

Monford swallowed. His round face turned pale – almost looking like the moon. “Aegon has as many dragons as Rhaenyra. I have been to Harrenhal, and have seen what became of it when it invoked the wrath of the Conqueror. Do you want to see that happen to Duskendale or Dun Fort?”

“You forget, Lord Monford,” Rhaekar said with a smile. “that I am of the blood of Old Valyria. Fire flows through my veins.”


“And you desire to see fire flow over the flesh of your people?”

Rhaekar lowered his voice. “No, of course not.” The lord continued on into the main hall. A servant wearing the plain clothes of the smallfolk bowed as he opened the door for his lord.

Monford followed Rhaekar in. “It might do well if you consider this when you come to your decision.”

“Do you think I care not for my people under my charge?” Rhaekar asked. His voice had risen again, and in the open, stone hallway of Dun Fort, it was amplified by the echo. The sudden and dramatic shift in tone made Monford stop in his steps, and shut his mouth from giving a response. Rhaekar could be patient when he wanted to, but the servants knew better than to awaken the anger within him. Unicorns are majestic creatures, but never forget they still have horns, he used to remind courtiers. Sensing the silence from the Lord of Byrch Hall, Rhaekar turned and stared hard at him with those violet eyes. In the light of the nearby torches, they appeared to have a soft glow. “Do you think I see the smallfolk like the Braavosi see coins? I know much more about statecraft than you might realize, my dear lord. What I despise more than being basked with assumptions is seeing my people go at one another with teeth.” He began to motion towards the north and south with his gloves. “To the north, my Valyrian kinfolk lay claim to the throne. To the south, those same Valyrian kinfolk sit on the throne. It would be lovely if the Iron Throne could perform as it does in legend and kill whichever one deserves it less, but I won’t hold my breath for that to happen. All the same...”

He held the gloves out. A male servant approached, took them from his hand, and backed away, head bent in a bow. Rhaekar sighed and turned his face away, his eyes closing. “All the same...you are right. Decisions must be made.”


Monford lifted up his hand and wiped his forehead with the cold, metal glove that rested over his fingers. It felt good against the sweat that had begun to build upon it – and not from the torch nearby. “Then do you know what you will do?”

The sound of thunder struck outside. It was directly over the castle. It was so close that the stones themselves seemed to rattle.

“What will I do?” Now Rhaekar’s lips curled into a smile. “Why, raise my banners for the rightful Queen Rhaenyra, of course.”

Monford’s eyes widened.

Rhaekar turned and continued on down the hall. “Come along. I can smell supper already.”

 

iisbroke

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Thank you. One of the perks of having Photoshop and some experience in graphic design.
Totally blows my document design courses out of the water, most I do is remove the water on those world map shots for my AAR. Also I'm liking the AAR keep it up.
 

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A nicely ominous beginning, with fine imagery. I am delighted to be able to follow this new AAR from the start.
 

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Oh hey. I never read the Threedrop AAR but I do recall Ronnel Arryn from that multiplayer AAR. He was my favourite character there. Really glad to see you back in the saddle!

So out of curiosity, how did this man end up ruling Duskendale? (In-universe.)
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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Thanks to everyone for the responses so far!

Oh hey. I never read the Threedrop AAR but I do recall Ronnel Arryn from that multiplayer AAR. He was my favourite character there. Really glad to see you back in the saddle!

So out of curiosity, how did this man end up ruling Duskendale? (In-universe.)
Ronnel was fun to write, and I liked how his relationship with Valiete (date-rape episode aside) became known as the only happy story not only in Westeros canon but in that AAR itself. For those who might have been curious what happened in the part that never got written before the MP game was dissolved, Ronnel was eventually killed by mountain bandits during a failed counterattack against them, and his son took over, and increased conflict with the Iron Islands due to them wanting to divorce one of his siblings. (I forget the exact details.)

As for how Rhaekar took over Duskendale, that will be explained gradually in following updates.

Totally blows my document design courses out of the water, most I do is remove the water on those world map shots for my AAR. Also I'm liking the AAR keep it up.
Hey, removing water can still be tricky, even without removing the texture from the map. (Which can be done - I had to do it on an older laptop of mine that slowed down with the water texture.) I give you props for that.

And thank you!

A nicely ominous beginning, with fine imagery. I am delighted to be able to follow this new AAR from the start.
Glad to have you aboard!
 

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In the dance of dragons scenario and supporting the blacks?
Count me in.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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coz1

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My reading has been rather spotty of late so I cannot promise I will stay up to date all the time, but I will certainly be reading. Excellent to see a new narrative from you, HvK! A great start, to be sure.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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My reading has been rather spotty of late so I cannot promise I will stay up to date all the time, but I will certainly be reading. Excellent to see a new narrative from you, HvK! A great start, to be sure.
Hello @coz1! Glad to have you aboard. Hope you continue reading!
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Saxon125

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Subbed :)
 

guillec87

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Henry v. Keiper

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Henry v. Keiper

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Chapter 2
Rhaena

Corn! Corn! Corn!

The young girl lifted her eyes from the castle wall, towards the tower above. She heard a fluttering of wings from one of the highest windows. A patch of her white hair flew in front of her face as a strong gust of wind blew through the embrasure she was seated on, and she was forced to move it out of the way.

Corn! Corn! Corn!

“Oh shut up,” came the soft voice of Lord Stauton’s maester, somewhere within the tower room. “You’ll be fed when I’m done writing.”

C’aw! C’aw! Corn! Corn!

Rhaena felt a soft grin curl over her lips. The exchange was humorous, and a welcome change from the events. It wasn’t lost on her that, at a place called Rook’s Rest, she was overhearing the cries of a raven that clearly wasn’t receiving any. When all she heard was an incoherent mumble from the maester, suggesting there was nothing else to eavesdrop in on, the girl shifted her body and gazed out at the narrow sea. Below her, the walls of Rook’s Rest castle dropped down, met the cliffs, and continued onward into the rocky shore below. Rhaena did not care – she was, after all a Targaryen, and hence was indifference to the dangers heights possessed. How could one ride their dragon if they were afraid of heights?


Somewhere, out there, was Dragonstone. She had grown up there, under her father and late mother, and later with her stepmother. The family had just arrived a few weeks ago, after being hurried out by their retainers. Her father had explained that there were rumors Aegon was preparing a large army to send towards the island and besiege the castle itself. There were also the concerns of the Free Cities stopping there with all their military might to take the castle before making their way to Westeros proper. Now here they were, in the Crownlands, relying on the hospitality of those lords who had raised banners in the queen’s name.

Queen Rhaenyra, Rhaena thought to herself. If this is the case, does this make me a princess?

Rhaena smiled at that. Princess Rhaena, issue of the House Targaryen. It played like a melody in her mind. She could see herself, dressed in the most beautiful of dresses, with fabric purchased from the Free Cities of Essos clinging to her form. Her silver hair would be held up in a bun as intricately done as the greatest of metalworks. She would step into the throne room with her head held high, looked upon by the highest nobles of the realm. They would all see how beautiful and royal she was. She found herself absentmindedly standing up. With her nose high in the air, she turned and began to take graceful, wide steps along the walk. Bit by bit she moved along to the tower opposite the maester’s, and entered through the open doorway.

“Rhaena.”

She jumped and turned. Her twin sister, Baela, stood there. Their likeness was so astounding that, for a moment, Rhaena thought she was looking into a mirror.

“Father wishes to speak with you. They have just finished a grand council of some sort.”

“I see.” She nodded to her sister, then stepped around her to begin her trek to the main hall. “Is father well?”

“Well enough,” Baela answered. “He will tell you himself when you arrive.”

Rhaena frowned at that. It was enough that her father had to deal with matters of war – she could only imagine what it was like for him, with many sleepless nights and constantly having to deal with one message or another. It had seemed, ever since news reached Dragonstone that the king had died and Aegon had been crowned king, that the entire world had spun upside down. Banners were raised for one side or another, and it seemed like every day there was another lord who had joined with one faction or the other. “Greens” and “blacks,” they called the opponents in this strange game of thrones. The names had come from the dresses worn by prominent women at a single tourney.

Men can fight their battles, Rhaena thought, but women have much more influence than they might realize. She smiled as she walked. Men fight in armor and die in the name of a woman’s dress.

She was close to the council chambers when she saw her father, Lord Daemon, appear from around the corner. As soon as his eyes lay on her, he forced a grin, even though his eyes betrayed the hard work he had invested in this war. It had been he to organize many of the troop movements as of late.


“Rhaena, there you are,” he said. “I need to discuss something with you.”

Rhaena took a bow. “Baela told me, father.”

“Come with me.” Daemon patted his daughter on the shoulder, beckoning her to walk beside him. “I know many would think me crazy, but you are past thirteen name days now, and no longer a child. I will not hide things from you, and I believe you should have a chance to make a decision.” He kept staring forward as he spoke. “Tell me, do you want to stay in Rook’s Rest?”

“Why would I leave?” Rhaena asked. It was a silly question to make, she realized. She followed it with the correction, “What reason would I have to leave?”

“There are many concerns, as of late,” Daemon said. He sighed and ran his fingers through his silver hair. “Aegon has landed a large army at Dragonstone and laid siege to it. There are rumors that the Three Daughters are sending a massive fleet towards the Stormlands. Aemond One-Eye is moving towards Griffin’s Roost to meet them.” He sighed again. “Most frustrating. Most frustrating indeed.”

Rhaena nodded, but kept herself quiet.

“In the meantime, your mother-” Not by birth, Rhaena immediately thought. “-has decided to move our forces south, to King’s Landing.”

“What of Dragonstone?” Rhaena asked. “Is Aegon not there?”

“Aegon’s armies are there,” Daemon corrected. “However, he is not. He remains at King’s Landing, and is calling the Lannisters to his aide. Your mother intends to march our army there and lay siege to the city. It might put a quick end to all this if we can find the traitorous bastard, cut him up into little pieces, and hang each bit at every gate in the city walls.”

Rhaena looked down at the stone floor as her father spoke harshly. In her mind, she tried instead to focus on the very real fact that the war would be over soon. If Rhaenyra won, she could stay at King’s Landing, within the walls of the Red Castle. Like a proper Targaryen. “So the armies must leave Rook’s Rest?”

“Yes. We will all be leaving. Myself included. Some of your siblings will be staying here for safekeeping. Your older brothers are coming with us, or heading east.” He glanced her way for a second before turning forward again. “You may stay here, or head east. Tell me what you wish.”

“There is no danger of Aegon or his bannermen coming here?”

“If that happens, our plan is to whisk you and your brothers and sisters to Gulltown. That is unlikely. Most of the northern lords in the Crownlands have pledged allegiance to your mother. Only recently did...”

Daemon’s voice trailed off. As his speech slowed into a stop, so did his steps. His eyes continued staring forward.

Rhaena blinked. Her heart fluttered as she tried to force the next few words out of her mouth. “Father? What is wrong?”

Daemon parted his lips. A sigh left his throat. “I should have remembered. Why did I let it slip my mind?”

“Father…?”

Daemon turned now, facing his daughter with his entire attention. “The only lord left to raise his banners is Lord Rhaekar, of Duskendale. And now he has, on a slight condition.”

“What condition?”

Daemon sighed again. “Your mother and I held a discussion over it with the council. We all agreed it was for the best. He has become betrothed to you.”

It was as if Daemon had raised his hand and slapped his daughter across the face. She stood there, eyes wide, and lips separated. “Father…?”

“I know this is most sudden, but if this war continues on any longer, it might be for the best. You will be safe in the Dun Fort.”


The Dun Fort is not King’s Landing, Rhaena wanted to say.

“Besides, that won’t be for another year or two, at the most,” her father continued. When she didn’t answer still, her father’s brow furrowed. “Listen, Rhaena, you were to be betrothed to a lord, one way or another. Be thankful it is a Valyrian kinsman and not some fat, smallfolk merchantman. Believe me when I say that I have much better things to do than worry about this right now.”

Rhaena lowered her gaze. “Yes, father.”

“Think about what you wish, and let me know your decision.” Daemon stared at her a moment. He smiled then, and placed a cool hand on her warm flesh, the palm resting now against her cheek. His thumb ran along the edge of her nose. “You are becoming more and more beautiful. Every day, you remind me more and more of your mother.”

He turned and walked away without another word. He tried to compliment me, to calm me down, like he always does, Rhaena thought. It didn’t do much to help this time. As she heard his footsteps fade away with his growing distance, it made her think of the passing of their mother. Laena Velaryon had indeed been said to have been a beautiful woman, having a form and demeanor she had inherited from her own mother. Rhaena wished she had better memories of her; she had passed away nine years ago, when Rhaena was only about four. Her father had remarried, this time to his niece, with Rhaena’s mother barely six months dead. She didn’t know about this as a young child, of course – she learned this only too recently, as an older girl. Once a maester had told her the Seven permit infants to teeth as babes because they would not be able to handle the pain at another age – no doubt this was the same mindset for harsher truths.

As soon as even the sounds of her father’s footsteps had left her alone, Rhaena turned and moved towards her chambers. The stone walls had always seemed cold, but now they seemed to be even revolting to Rhaena. This was not her home. It wasn’t even to be her shelter. Her shelter, soon enough, would be the Dun Fort and Duskendale. In a matter of moments, her father and stepmother had decided the rest of her life as easily as one decides whether or not he wishes for another drink of water.

She stepped into her chambers and shut the door behind her. Turning, she saw a familiar sight above a brazier in the middle of the room. It was a large, orange egg with scales all around its shell. It glowed gently from the ember beneath. Rhaena walked over and gave it a slow, gentle pat.

“We shall be moving soon,” she whispered to it. “And your new home shall be Duskendale.”

Her hand moved up to the top of the egg. The palm rested over the apex, and then her fingers wrapped around the contour.

“But not yet,” she whispered. Her eyes lifted up, staring against the dank, dark walls of her chamber. “I am my father’s ward. I will be by his side.” Her eyes narrowed. “And I will see Aegon lose his crown before I lose my maidenhead.”