Walking calmly down the dozens of long corridors that laced Dragon Fort Tywin found himself passing lady after lady, all wearing revealing summer dresses, bosoms pushed up, legs bare under the thin silks and satins of their dresses. Each one he passed smiled at him before bursting into a fit of giggles whispering to her friends when his back was turned, such attention...Usually he would smile or bow his head slightly or wink or stare at them savouring the sight, but today he didn't. Doing those things didn't...didn't seem knightly. The hard scarlet of his armour was sure to make him stand out against the cool yellow sandstone that made up most of the castle. Not to mention the golden phoenix that spiralled across his right pauldron with its long eyed tail feathers enamelled in every colour imaginable, the cape across his shoulders clipped into place by tiny golden swords. Rounding the final corner to the Throne Room a row of Black Guard greeted him. Passing by them without a second glance he pushed the grand oak doors open with loud wooden creaks.
The Throne Room was a beautiful room. It was held the wedding celebrations of the Dragon Knight as he wed Lady Valaria, for the past ten millennia it was the seat of power for the Granite Throne. And there it is. Staring down the long marbled hall the throne sat beneath a colossal stained glass window that depicted a knight with lance in hand spearing some great sea creature. It was a horrid window compared to the other that graced the hall, twelve in all, all fifteen feet high, each one showing a different time in the history of the Nine Isles. From the first founding, to the time of dragons, all the way to the Barbarian invasion of White Isle that had nearly threatened to destroy the isles. But beneath this monstrosity of a window...stood the throne of the founders, the throne of kings and queens for millennia...Gods its ugly! Thought Tywin staring at the huge gray block of a chair. Not a single decoration adorned it, not one carving, inlay, jewel or even a cushion. Just a dozen faces of polished gray rock. It was a masterpiece of craftsmanship, there could be no arguing that, every line perfectly straight, every surface completely flat and absolutely level. But still ugly.
Leading up to the throne huge jade pillars stretched high up to the domed ceiling, the oculus in its centre sending a single shaft of golden light into the hall. What remained of the king’s generals, or Dragon Guard, were stood before a large wooden table that had been placed before the throne for the meeting. Only five of the original twelve were left. After the north was taken any knight, soldier, priest or Matriarch with a hint of northern blood was either killed or sent to live in camps in White Isle. After the northmen had killed Nana the king wanted to be sure something like that could never happen again, so his masters of shadows checked bloodlines...twelve generations back. One northern ancestor and you were gone. Only four of the Dragon Guard had been killed because of their blood lines, when the king took White Isle two of the Dragon Guards left the capital for their homes in Garden Isle. Green knights are true knights...the crowns relationship with Garden Isle had been frosty at the best of times since the Barristan house won the crown. They saw the king taking the north as an act without any honour or just cause.
There was a cause...they killed Nana, we had to kill them...at least...I thought we had too. So the green knights fled, Ser Balmy disappeared off the face of the Nine Isles, leaving just five Dragon Guard left. 'Ah Phoenix Knight,' said the kings right hand Ser Jory Reinwood, the Black Bull they called him. Tywin could tell why. Broad of shoulder and chest Ser Jory was not a man as much as a titan, a good foot taller than any other man Tywin had ever seen with dark hair and a thin triangular beard he looked a menacing bugger. Stood on the first steps leading to the throne with his hand on his sword handle, black armour seeming to grow from the dark marble floor, crimson cloak draped over his shoulders. Gods he hated him. He'd been at Tywin’s side at the northern village, when Tywin gave the order not to kill women and children he followed...only to round them all up without his knowledge and ship them back to Dragon Fort where the king paraded them in the central square all chained together. He did it because the king ordered Tywin to kill everyone...he did it because the king wanted to teach him a lesson...he did it because he fucking enjoyed making people suffer. 'It's good to see you sober.' he quipped.
'The day's young Ser Jory.' said Tywin with a smile. 'Besides with a belly full of wine your face might just bring it all back up again, and I wouldn't want that. These shoes are new.' Ser Garston stifled a laugh, as did Ser Renly. Probably the only friends he had in the Dragon Guard and the closest thing to real knights he had to model himself on. Ser Garston Blacktusk hailed from a small village on Boar Isle, he'd been given nothing and had to earn every gold coin he owned, his knighthood given to him by the kings father for brave acts in the field he was the oldest knight still serving. Silver haired and wrinkled face, but quicker with a sword than people gave him credit for, and people often died for making that misjudgement. He wore his gleaming silver armour with the pride of a man who'd earned it, his huge two handed broadsword resting across his back.
Ser Renly Barten was a slim man in deep green armour edged with bronze lion heads, the sygil of his house, with a thick head of bright yellow curls that hung down to his shoulders. He had been Ser Garston's squire until he had been knighted, he was a good knight, young and impetuous, but talented with a sword almost as much as with his poleaxe. The remaining two were the king’s pets. Ser Jacob Axel of Black Isle and Ser Dermont Stone. Ser Dermont was a loud mouthed fool. It was often said about the Stones 'Quick tempers, slow minds.' And Tywin had to agree, his mountain sygil probably had more brains than he did with his fat broad face and slack wit eyes. Any problem that couldn’t be solved with a sword he didn't want to be a part of, he was a thug, one of the kings many trained attack dogs. But it was Ser Jacob that Tywin distrusted most of all...Tywin had learnt over the years at court how to read peoples faces...but Ser Jacobs pale ashen mask of a face stumped him every time. He could never even guess at what he was feeling or thinking...that made him dangerous.
'Where's your sword boy?' asked Ser Jory fishing for a nerve. Tywin smiled as he approached the table standing to the side of Ser Garston at the right end. The king had passed a law banning anyone but knights and soldiers wearing weapons, Tywin was neither.
'I seemed to have misplaced it...might I borrow yours?'
'I'm sure I could find a place to put it in you Tywin...' smiling down at him Tywin just smiled back. The faces of all those people being killed flashing before his eyes, the great silver chain clinking together as they struggled to escape.
'Just know Ser Jory, if you gave me all the gold in the kingdom I wouldn't do any of things you call executions, not for all the gold in Crystal Hall. But put a sword in my hand...I'd gladly kill you for free!' A set of doors in the corner of the hall beside the dais of the throne and the king marched through, hair braided, violet eyes glancing over them all briefly, black armour shining, Dragonfire at his hip. His master of shadows Maxum Croft followed close behind him and behind him...the future queen. Emelia was a thin woman with a face that made every man in the kingdom melt with passion; her long golden hair was tied back into thin ponytail tied with fine white lace. A dress of pure white satin hugged her slender figure and disguised her ample bosom. A true lady. He thought as he watched her move beside her future husband as he sat himself in his stone throne.
'Kneel before your king!' spat Ser Jory as the knights of the Dragon Guard drew their swords and rested their points onto the marble floor as they kneeled, Tywin kneeled too but angled his body more to Emelia than Baelor.
'Is your armour not to your liking Tywin?' asked the king not even looking at him.
'Not at all Your Grace...'
'Then in future jousts you will keep it on! You are no use to me dead.' he said harshly.
'Of course Your Grace.' he whispered.
'Rise all of you,' one by one the Dragon Guard rose, sheathing their blades. 'I was going to call this meeting to discuss our further enhancement into the Mainland but on my way here a raven came bearing news from Lord Commander Rannoch in the White Isle...the northmen have rebelled.'
'What?' whispered Ser Garston. 'How is that possible Your Grace? Your forces out number them three to one!'
'Yes but when General Melak at the Fang was murdered in the High Lord's hall and the Lord Commander soon after him discipline all but fled from the men up there, those savages shot down every raven sent by our forces. Only this came through and it was only four words.'
'The north is lost.' grinned Maxum sickly. 'It seems Sers, war is knocking on the crowns door.'
'Well we must retake the north! Those traitorous bastards already infiltrated the castle once...' Began Ser Jory.
'And tried to kill Tywin,' added Ser Renly boldly. Jory shot him a look that would have made lesser men lose their bowels but Renly just stared back with his own hard flinty stare.
'With your wedding approaching I think it unlikely they would storm Dragon Fort Your Grace, there would be too many guards...but a single assassin.' said Ser Garston.
'I say we march an army north and take back the ice lands! Now before they have time to regroup and form defences against us!' shouted Ser Dermont slamming his armoured fist onto the table with a loud crack that made Elaina jump.
'I'm inclined to agree Your Grace, anything less than a full scale invasion will make you look weak in the eyes of the other High Lords.' said Garston gently.
'Piss on the other High Lords!' spat Jory. 'I'll cut down them all if they stand in our way or dare to even think about attacking Jade Isle. The Royal Army is the largest in all of the Nine Isles, I say take back the north my king, at the point of a sword.'
'Agreed.' nodded the king. Violet eyes staring into nothingness.
'My lord King Baelor I request that I lead the vanguard into battle under your banner,' said Dermont kneeling quickly.
'I shall lead the van!' roared Jory. Ser Jacob Axel rarely spoke so he simply kneeled before the king, face still as a frozen lake.
'None of you shall lead the van...Tywin.' Oh by the Gods. 'I'll give you half of the soldiers in their barracks at Blackwater. Punish the northmen for their rebellion.' after a long silence the king finally snapped his violet eyes onto him.
'Lead your own damn van...' he said carefully.
'Insolent swine!' roared the Black Bull thrusting forward towards him, his sword flashing from its sheath like a silver dart. Dodging the sword blade as it swung over his head Tywin grabbed the back of his gorget, kicked his massive leg from under him and pushing him down slammed his head into the wooden table. Splinters flew in an atomised spray of blood and with a satisfying crack Jory fell to the floor unconscious. Emelia screamed as Jacob and Dermont drew their swords.
'STOP!' bellowed the king. Looking to Baelor Barristan as he descended the dais, violet eyes never leaving Tywin. He stopped a few feet in front of him. The hard smack of the back of his gauntleted hand shook his teeth in their sockets as he struck him. 'You ever talk to me like that again,'
'Like what?' asked Tywin spitting a globule of blood onto the floor before the king struck him again. Emelia winced for him silently; Garston and Renly just lowered their heads and pretended it wasn't happening. The voices of the Phoenix Knights in his dream rung in his head. "YOU KNOW WHAT MUST BE DONE! DO IT!"
'Take my army north...take Black Reach and then spread to the Fang.' hissed Baelor Barristan through clenched teeth. 'If you don't...I'll kill your little bed warmer. I hear you call each other brother and sister...like a bit of incest do you boy? If you don't I'll kill your little slut and send her body parts to you piece by piece!' Moving to hit him again his dream still swam between his ears. "YOUR BLOOD RUNS WITH FIRE! USE IT!" Grabbing the kings wrist before the back of his hand struck home Tywin looked into the harsh furious face of the man he'd once called father. As the rage within Tywin boiled further and further Baelor fought against his grip, pain lancing across his features, soon he was screaming as his armour melted under Tywin's hand. Jory rose and struck him across the face with the pommel of his sword, black fell over Tywin’s vision but a great screaming pain ripped through the darkness. The king held Dragonfirein his hand, carving it slowly down Tywin's right eye, stopping above his jaw bone.
'Listen to me boy...I will give Alaina to my soldiers for their pleasure before I mach her naked into the square before you, I will make you watch as she dangles...I will cut her up, feed her bowels to my dogs, but her head on a spike, send her limbs to the four corners of my kingdom to hang above the gates of my castles as a warning for all who see them. Be a smart boy Tywin, lead the van...kill the northmen.' I'm sorry Phoenix Knights...I can't do it...I can't.
'OK I'll do it...just dont hurt Alaina...please...'