Cannis stood in his simple boiled leather armour in the main hall of Lady's Siren's Mammoth Keep, a large structure with wide open plan streets to allow their mounts to walk virtually anywhere in the city, they even made the gates through the city walls large enough to accommodate a fully grown mammoth. The hall was empty apart from him, pacing up and down between the great log tables biting the edge of his thumbnail, the candle wax dripping from the chandeliers on the ceiling. I've made a mistake...a voice kept telling him as he paced the hall. Black Reach is going to fall and there was nothing he could do about it now...he'd played his hand...he just had to wait. The war council had gone one for hours between the Lords and Lady of White Isle, even Father had left his little sanctuary in the chapel to voice his wizened opinions. 'The great weakness of Baelor Barristan is his arrogance; he'll believe we'll fold as easily as we did the last time the Phoenix Knight tore through our isle. The king will send a small force with the knight at it's head to take Black Reach.' said the Lone Wolf from his chair in the centre of the long table.
'He can think again if he wants to take my city!' rumbled Lord Beka, his beard even longer than the last time Cannis had seen it but still as silver and shiny.
'Black Reach is the most accsessible...' said Lady Siren softly.
'This is why I would recommend sending the vast majority of our forces there to batter away what little forces the Phoenix Knight has.'
'Agreed,' nodded Cannis. 'But I want to keep the Mammoth Riders at their keep, and split our forces into two, one to Black Reach the other to Mammoth Keep.'
'Why Lord Cannis?' asked Lady Siren softly.
'This is not the king we're facing it's the Phoenix Knight, if his predecesors are anything to go by he will be a brilliant tactician which is why I believe there is a chance he may sail past the cliffs of the Great Tusk and up God Stream to take Mammoth Keep.' The other lords looked at him, to the map, and then to him again with a wide variety of expressions.
'No sane man would sail past the cliffs of the tusk and wish to live,' said Lord Heron as he dug the end of his knife blade into the table top.
'And if they did they'd never take Mammoth Keep, I'd ride out with my men and crush them.'
'Not if you were at Black Reach Lady Siren,' pausing Cannis leaned onto the hard table. 'I've fought him before at River Cross, he does what you least expect and no one will expect an attack on Mammoth Keep over Black Reach.' so it had been done, the preparations for war made, the defences created and soldiers sent to the two cities. Black Reach was undermanned and if the Phoenix Knight did sail to it it wouldn't take a large force to overrun the city walls. His hand dropped to the huge broadsword his father had given him the day he left, 'It's about time you had it.' the huge starsteel broad sword had been passed down from father to child in the Wolfborn line since they were named High Lords of White Isle. 'My mother gave it to me, I have no for a sword anymore. I never sought to give it a name...but my mother called it Brighthowl. Now with the sword in his hand Cannis could immediately see the advantages of starsteel. Lighter, thinner, darker and even after centuries of use Cannis was sure Brighthowl was sharp enough to shave with.
'Lord Cannis!' a breathless sentry said as he stumbled through the open doorway to the hall. 'Lord Cannis...Phoenix Knight...spotted...Black Reach...three ships...'
'What?' he asked quickly. 'You're certain?'
'Lord Kear wrote himself my lord...he's on the main deck of the flag ship....commanding the archers and siege bows.' panted the fit young sentry as he rested onto his knees. They haven't stormed yet? And three ships wouldn't be nearly enough to take Black Reach...something doesn't feel right. Resting Brighthowl in her sheath onto his shoulder as he had seen his father do thousands of times he closed his eyes. Ours is the blood of the wolf my son...their instincts run through you...trust them. His father whispered to him from some dark corner of his mind.
'Send out half of the Mammoth Rider's, tell them to head towards Black Reach, when the keep is out of sight wait for thirty minutes then double back here...go now! Quickly son go!' The sentry nodded before fleeing through the doors again. Great Hunter be with me. He prayed, closing his eyes. If this didn't work...Black Reach was lost.
'It's workin' laddy!' whispered Rickard as they laid flat on the white ice sheet that covered the surface of the God Stream, even with the conductivity of his armour Tywin still melted through the ice at some impressive speed so he constantly had to move places. Wearing a huge white tarp with only two eye holes cut from the cloth he and his men were virtually invisible against the stark white ground. Rickard said it was an old smugglers trick, Tywin didn't ask how he knew smugglers tricks but it worked well enough. Three days off the coast of the Tusk Tywin and Captain Thunderson had jumped ships, taking Jaelor's Pride and the Black Widow up the Tusk while White Rose, Hunter's Arrow and Bloody Betha waited five days in the open ocean as ordered. Tywin saw a snap for himself as they sailed far away from the cliff edge. A massive white block the size of his tower back at Dragon Fort just cracked off the cliff face and plummeted into the ocean, sending ripples so large when they hit the prow of the Bloody Betha they nearly capsized her. 'Even out here young one,' said Rickard picking himself up from deck of the small war galleon, 'We aren't safe from the snaps.'
Eventually the two ships carved themselves through the floating blocks of ice in the north ocean and turned left, the God Stream had been slow work but they didn't have to go far. When Mammoth Keep was just a smudge in the horizon they stopped, and headed across land, all in white, travelling mostly at night for three days. On the fourth day the castle became more active, he guessed because the attack on Black Reach had started and now the thick portcullis had just lifted and fifteen colossal mammoths charged out. The ground rumbling with their heavy footsteps through the snow, their four ivory tusks gleaming in the midday sun, their six or so occupants armoured in their boiled leather, Tywin clearly saw the glint of swords, bows and spears strapped the their backs. Corpor had done his job well, making himself seen in Tywin's armour on the deck of the White Rose as they distracted the northmen. Now the two thousand odd men at his back all bristled with excitement. When the mammoths were out of sight, they'd crawl through the half mile of snow and ice, then scale the walls.
'Aye,' he said to Rickard under his tarp. The huge bulk of the captain looked like a small snow dune his tarp was so huge, but it did it's job. They killed Nana, they killed Nana. He kept telling himself as adrenaline fuelled through his system. 'Ready boys!' he said quietly. The soldiers at his back were nothing more than half trained conscripts. One had already thrown up the others looked terrified beneath their tarps, lifting them up briefly to look at their Phoenix Knight, they were just boys, playing war...but this was real. 'Me neither,' he smiled lifting the tarp from his face. 'I know your scared, so am I, but do as I tell you, follow your gut and stay steadfast in your duty we'll win! These monsters killed my grandmother when I was a child, they tried to kill my sister and me, they hold nothing sacred! If they take Jade Isle they'll rape, plunder and burn it to the ground...' as he said it the soldiers faces suddenly hardened. 'Don't do this for the king, do it for your families back home, for Alaina...' Tywin said smacking the ground.
'For Byron,' squeaked a determined looking boy with blonde hair near the front of the long white snake of soldiers.
'For Keats,' another said.
'For Podrick.' and on and on it went, all down the line. Soldiers muttering the names of their loved ones. Tywin turned back to the huge city that stood close before them. It was an ugly city. All square short buildings with huge wide streets for their pets. It's wall wasn't as high as Tywin expected, but they were covered with sentry points, at night they carried torches and the whole city suddenly looked like it was surrounded by a swarm of blaze flies. But during the day the watch was smaller, and now with the mammoths deployment...barely any. 'Nice work lad.' nodded Rickard. 'Do you pray son?' Tywin shook his head, the mammoths were nearly gone, the soldiers still muttered names in the distance. 'Me neither, the Siblings have no power in the open ocean, she is my only goddess and she’s a bitch!' he joked.
'Let's give these savages a taste her wrath then my friend!' Tywin grinned.
'Aye!' boomed the huge captain. 'Come on lads! We'll drink their halls dry tonight!' The mammoths were gone.
'Archers take out the nearest sentries!' ordered Tywin quietly. The whole group army crawled through the snow towards the castle walls, it wasn't a long way but he knew the snow and the cold would be enough to weaken his men. Thirty feet from the wall arrows began to be loosed, men fell at their stations silently, a lone sentry walked right in front the snake, of course he noticed the huge patch of snow moving towards the castle walls. 'ARCH...' before his order was finished an archer sprung from under his tarp, his arrow released with a clear thwang. The sentry just had time to open his mouth to call the alarm before the arrow passed through his neck, silencing him for the rest of his life.
'Climbers form up!' Tywin threw the tarp from himself, as did five others near the front, each of the five had coils of thick rope around their shoulders and a gleaming silver grappling hooks in their hands. Tywin didn't need rope or hooks. All he needed was his climbing spikes, thin cylindrical blades with a circular hand guard designed specifically for climbing, and slipping between the cracks in the mortar of a wall. Charging at the wall without the hindrance of his heavy plate armour he leapt, dug the spikes into the mortar and began to climb. One hand over the other with toes against the wall. He repeated that simple pattern with effortless grace, his added strength as the Phoenix Knight meant he could plough the small spikes into solid rocks as easily as a knife through cake. The other climbers threw their grapling hooks, the gleaming silver prongs locking onto the dark stone wall. His breathe swirling before him in a light gray mist Tywin reached the top and carefully pulled himself over the wall. A long narrow pathway cut through the top of the stone wall just wide enough for two men to stand in side by side. Drawing his borrowed blade Tywin prepared for what was to come.