AN: I've overhauled the story and re-uploaded the chapters.
AN2: This part was betaed by Sbiper on the alternative history forums, thank you very much!
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars or Game of Thrones. They belong to their respective copyright owners. This story is written without profit in mind. I make no money from it.
Prologue: A new prince in the Red Keep
I stared at my "mother" and siblings, who were waiting me for breakfast, or to break our fast as they say around here. We were in Cersei's chambers, which while tastefully decorated in vivid crimson and bright gold, left a lot to be desired. While things could be worse, I could have ended up stuck into a commoner without the Force to back me after all. Nevertheless, even royal chambers from such a primitive age were a far cry from the luxuries I had grown accustomed to. From all the stunts my "favorite patron" had pulled off, this had to take the cake. She even did this for my own good you see. I needed vacation she told me, then I awoke into a bloody stinking drafty castle.
I had to keep repeating in my head that awakening in the Royal suites of the Red Keep was much better than the alternatives considering I found myself without the Force, any magic or cybernetic enhancements. I was just a man, a growing teenager really, which didn't do my prospects of reaching the respected old age of twenty any favours.
On the bright side, at least my new body was in an incredible shape when you consider the more or less medieval setting, but still...
It could be worse, much worse, I chanted in my head while carefully studying most of my closest family in this world. Cersei was a stunning blonde who wore her years well, my little sister resembled a bit thinner, younger copy of our mother, and Tommen, well… he was a short blond lad who looked at the set up table with ill disguised interest. Finally, there was Joff, my other brother, the little psychopath. He was the Crown Prince too and a significant obstacle to me staying alive in the long run if the little I remembered about this world was in fact true. At least I had a bit of time, no matter how borrowed it was, before all hell broke loose. Did I mention that all of us had one specific thing in common? Yeah, we were all blond fucking bastards, which as far as I was concerned meant that I was already on a borrowed time.
Well, needs must. I plastered my best fake smile on my face, gave a friendly wave to my new family and headed for the table, hoping that the bloody food wouldn't be poisoned. While two of my siblings were obviously happy to see me, even if in Tommen's case I was less interesting than the food, Joff was glarring daggers at me. I simply smirked at the little shit, wondering how soon I could arrange a very regretful and tragic accident for my dear older brother.
I wasn't sure what it said about me that half hour after awakening in this world I was already plotting kinslaying, then again, I did have the memories of Durran Baratheon, the lad whose body I ended up possessing, and everything I could recall pointed at the fact that only a handful of people would really miss Joff the little monster. I know, that was rich coming from a bloody Sith, however I simply couldn't help it.
I shook my head and walked to the table, while keeping my fake smile in place. I gave a respectful nod to my mother and went for the free seat on her left. Naturally, Joff was sitting to her right, the place of most respect, even though the little mad man deserved none. I just raised an eyebrow at my fuming big brother, being glad that my past self in this world hadn't spent too much time with him. As the second son, the Prince in whose body I now resided, had spent nearly half the year at Storm's end, the Baratheon's ancestral seat of power, being groomed as the next lord of the Stormlands… which was another clusterfuck I would have to deal with. Even worse, I had the vague suspicion that something like that wasn't supposed to happen – I had a muddy recollection of Uncle Renly being chosen to inherit the Castle and father's titles… I blinked at that thought and shook my head, hoping that sooner or later would become easier to separate the thoughts and memories of Durran from my own.
It wasn't all bad because at least Prince Durran Baratheon had been somewhat competent and reasonably nice kid (for a Westerossi noble) and didn't piss off the locals. However that might not matter in the end given our Lannister looks and questionable parentage. I would have to work hard to make sure there was no doubt that appearance aside I was a bloody Baratheon through and through, but that was for the not so distant future. I still had a breakfast to get through and all the clashing thoughts and memories running amok through my skull didn't help at all.
"Mother, how have you been, really? I know you said all was fine in the letters we exchanged." I asked, while carefully studying the Queen with concerned eyes.
I decided that playing the role of the dutiful and concerned son might be for the best at least until I could get my bearings, straighten up my head and begin building a proper power base. While winging it wasn't exactly my favourite modus operandi, it was often quite fun.
It was even better when I had the Force backing me up so I could get out of any unfortunate situation I ran into too. I shoved away this morose thought and picked up a cup of wine. Joy, being stuck in such a primitive place, drinking alcohol all day long every day might turn out to be the healthy thing to do. 'Lucky me.' I took a careful sip of the wine, which wasn't actually that bad and returned my full attention to my brand new mother.
"I'm fine, Durran." Cersei answered with a small smile forming on her face. "What about you? You've been stuck in the Stormlands for so long..."
The implication being that even being groomed for a Lord Paramount of the Stormlands in breach of certain important traditions wasn't good enough for someone of Lannister blood.
"Storm's End was all right, even if it isn't the Red Keep." I lied through my teeth. If my new memories were right, and I didn't have other things to worry about, being stuck over there ruling one of the Seven Kingdoms and keeping as far away from King's Landing and its stench would have been a great bargain. However, I wasn't that lucky. "How about you, Joff?" I kept my smile on and saluted my older brother with my cup.
Mother, this little shit, Little Finger, and a bunch of other imbeciles were going to tear the realm apart and likely get me murdered or worse unless I played their bloody game and won, and that would simply not do. Besides, as a King I would be in a better position to make this shithole into something vaguely resembling bearable place to live. I hoped so anyway.
My loving psycho of a brother merely glowered at me and buried his face into a cup of ale. And this, ladies and gentlemen, was supposed to be our next King. Over my cold dead body.
I turned my attention to brother number too, who was too busy devouring a passable rendition of a cake to be interested in anyone else. Sibling number three was delicately nibbling on a piece of steaming bread generously covered with honey and watched me with sparkling eyes.
"What about you, Cella? How have you been, my little Princess?" The mere sight of my little sister, who incidentally was the only sibling Durran actually loved, turned my smile into a genuine one. He didn't have much patience for Tommen and his antics, which were centered around chasing cats and playing with them if he caught them, and the less said about Joff and his habits,the better.
"I'm well, big brother." Cella answered after swallowing her bite, and acting like the proper little lady.
I was beginning to figure out that I got the full package from Durran, memories, emotions, everything, which if indeed true, was going to be both a blessing and a curse. Cella was innocent little girl, I loved her to bits and had the overwhelming need to keep her safe and strangle everyone and anyone who looked at her the wrong way.
That was going to be a complication…
I took a piece of warm bread and began buttering it while trying to calm down my racing thoughts. Possible threats and people who I needed to get rid off, not to mention problems that needed fixing yesterday, possible assets, the nucleus of a few plans… Well, as far as threats went, those were more than I could remember from the top of my head, however at least half the members of the Small Council qualified at this time. There were the Targaryens across the sea, the zombie army that would sooner or later march south, my parentage and the war that it might spark…
I took up a fork and stabbed an inoffensive piece of cheese and took a bite of it, still trying and failing to focus my thoughts. My eyes ran across the room, taking in the absurdly old fashioned furniture and tapestries the likes of which I hadn't seen outside a museum in decades. All the red reminded me that if I played my cards right I could enjoy the backing of one of the most powerful and capable people on the continent, who also happened to be my grandfather so that was one serious boon. I could recall that my father and Tywin Lannister used to argue through raven post TM about my future. My grandfather wanted me as a possible heir to Casterly Rock in case his nephews didn't prove themselves competent enough. That would have led to either Tommen replacing me as the prospective heir of the Stormlands or even better for the stability of the realm, he could inherit something else while one of my Uncles got the Lordship and Lord Paramountcy as if was their due.
That idea brought my thoughts to a halt. I couldn't recall what exactly possessed father to make me the heir of Storm's End with all that entailed, and that might actually be quite important for my continued well-being. For certain, figuring out that little mystery would be yet another thing to deal with in the foreseeable future.
Finally, I managed to calm down my racing thoughts to properly concentrate on the here and now.
"Mother, to what do we own the honor?" I asked.
Ever since Durran had turned fourteen, such family breakfasts were no longer an almost daily ritual. Cersei had been too busy doting on Joffrey, making him even bigger spoiled brat than he used to be, while the Durran began spending a lot of time around Renly and Ser Barristan Selmy, who was his primary tutor in sword combat.
Cersei interrupted my musings.
"The hand of the King had gotten sick all of a sudden," she informed us in a sweet tone.
Oh, shit. I thought I had more time to plot and prepare.
"That is tragic," I supplied in a neutral tone.
"Indeed, Durran." Mother said, though you couldn't tell she was in any way disturbed by this turn of events by the way she spoke. In fact, she appeared quite pleased.
"What's the big deal?" scoffed Joff.
I rolled my eyes at him and even mother gave him a look that might have held the tiniest hint of disapproval.
"Who could become the next Hand of the King if the worst happens, the Seven forbid? That is the issue," I said, giving him something to think about and winning a nod of approval from Cersei.
While Joff was trying to make his two brain cells rub together, I speared another piece of yellow cheese with my fork and started chewing carefully. This one was edible as well.
"Grandfather of course!" exclaimed Joff.
I almost choked on the cheese and had to hastily wash it down with wine. As if. I was well aware, as everyone who paid any attention, that Robert wasn't too thrilled with the Lannisters having as much influence within King's Landing as we currently held. Making Tywin Lannister the Hand of the King, well that was going to happen when the Seven Hells froze over. Even if I didn't have some knowledge about a possible future, the logical choice at least in father's mind would be Eddard Stark.
Stark, he honorable northern man. That poor sod would have no idea in what he would be getting himself into if he accepted the position. It was more likely than not that I would be one of the people plotting against him. If he was truly as honorable as the show and the common knowledge I could now recall indicated about the man, he would be an enemy if, when the secret went out, which was too bad. Under most circumstances Stark would be one of the few people in this wretched world I could trust, however as things stood I did like my head to remain firmly attached to its rightful place, thank you very much. Preferably with a crown on it in the future too.
My crazy older brother notwithstanding, I had it too good to risk loosing all the power and security my position could give me even while Robert was still alive. That reminded me, I needed to have a hear to heart conversation with mother and "uncle" Jamie, about regicide among other bracing topics. I had no illusions how the King would react if the truth ever got out while he was still drawing breath. In such a case, my best bet would be either to flee to Essos or taking the Black. If I was really lucky that is and I had no intention of either baking in the desert of freezing my balls on the wall waiting for the zombies to come and try eat my face.
I took a sip of wine lamenting the lack of Kaf and looked at Joff.
"Unlikely, brother. If Jon Arryn doesn't recover, father's choice for his next Hand lies north," I stated the obvious.
My mother nodded absentmindedly. It was obviously that she was plotting something, though that was nothing new. She was always doing so.
"Eddard Stark!" she almost spat the name. "He would be troublesome!"
How interesting. One would think that she wouldn't be too pissed off with such a choice. Grandfather was clearly out for now as a contender for the position and speak whatever you will about Stark, but there were much worse choices for a Hand of the King. At least speaking from the point of view of our family.
"Perhaps," I agreed. "On the other hand, there are other people who we would like even less as the Hand of the King."
"There is something else..." Cersei trailed off. "Ever since you left for Storm's End last year, your father has been making noises about finding you and Joffrey wives."
"Ah. How interesting!" I exclaimed, adding just the right amount of false cheer in my voice.
It really didn't fool anyone, but Joff, who was pouting. Cella giggled at me while struggling with a piece of lemon cake and my mother even allowed herself a small, amused smile.
"Any idea who are the lucky ladies?" I asked. Though whoever had to marry Joff would be very unlucky gal if he lived long enough for such an occasion. Needless to say, that wasn't something I was willing to allow. Giving my brother chance to spawn wasn't good idea on so many levels…
"The Tyrell girl and one of the Starks…"
"Well, well... That's actually not too bad an idea," I thought aloud.
Cersei frowned at me, even though the reasoning should be obvious. The Lannisters and the Starks weren't best of friends, especially after Tywin's stunt with the previous royal family. Which reminded me, the Mountain needed to die in order to patch up relations with Dorne or at least buy us some more time before they did something regrettable.
"I can see why father wants a marriage with the North. It's no secret the bad blood existing between the Lannisters and Starks. Then there is the Tyrell's ambitions to think about. Binding them to us would have many benefits." I thought aloud.
Mace Tyrell, no to mention his mother, the Queen of the Roses, they wanted close ties with the royal house. They would love if Margery became the next Queen, which would benefit us a lot as well. Such a union would give us a greater access to the Reach, with its food, money and equally importantly armies... Besides, that would placate the Tyrells, making them less likely to try fucking up with us too much and help secure their position as well. Not to mention that Durran had fallen hard for Margery and I inherited his crush, which was another double edged blade to deal with.
"So, how has it been around here? Anything too interesting you didn't write about?" I asked, changing the topic.
I wasn't up to speed with the more current events in King's Landing. I got dumped in Dorran's head last night, just after he came back from Storm's End. That thought sent my mind racing again.
The Stormlands currently were another can of worms. While, Renly liked me, he was far from thrilled that soon enough I was supposed to be replacing him as the acting Lord of the Stormlands. Technically it was about time, with both myself and Joff being of age for the past couple of years.
"Not really. I wrote you about everything of importance," Mother informed me.
She did write, sending me ravens at least weekly while I was away from the snake pit, though roughly half of those letters contained gossip and useless trivia instead of anything even remotely useful.
The rest of the breakfast passed in relative silence while we had some utterly trivial small talk, disrupted only by Joff's whining about marrying a northern savage.
Eventually Joff went to torture something or someone, and my other siblings left to meet their tutors, which left me to have a private conversation with mother. We retreated to her private chambers, which were rather well furnished, when you take into account the general tech level of Westeross. In practice, even the luxury of the Royal quarters within the Red Keep couldn't make up for the lost high tech comforts someone from a world like twenty first century Earth, not to mention the Corcusca galaxy, would take for granted.
We went deep within Cersei's sanctuary after she chased out her serving girls. Once we were reasonably sure of our privacy, I turned towards my mother and frowned. This was going to be one unpleasant conversation.
Before broaching the subject of murder and treason, I walked around, looking for eavesdroppers and hidden passages where someone could be hiding. Cersei noticed my actions and looked confused for a moment, before figuring out what I was doing and pointing me in the right direction. There was no one skulking around in either of the three secret passages leading out of the Queen's chambers.
"What is so important that you take such precautions, my son? While I'm glad you are taking the Game seriously enough, I can't help, but wonder what have you go to such lengths to secure a private conversation." Cersei's tone betrayed her sudden worry.
"Oh, I'm sure you know well enough, mother," I almost sneered at her, though I was able to barely keep my expression and voice neutral. "I know," I declared.
My only answer was a raised eyebrow.
"Who is my real father. And my siblings'…"
Those words got me a reaction. Oh, they did.
Cersei blanched and looked wildly around us. The shocked look on her face, the way she became deathly pale, they were telling. But in the end, it was her eyes which told me the truth. Yeah... I got the confirmation I needed in order to proceed planning multiple murders.
"We need to have a looong conversation, mother..." I smiled at her.
If the way her eyes widened was anything to go by, she wasn't reassured by my expression.
"The morning Jon Arryn died, the Game of Thrones changed. A new player marched on the board and from then on, I was certain of only one thing. My Prince would be King even if we had to wade through rivers of blood to make that dream a reality!"
- Ser Marrek Storm, Sworn Shield of Prince Durran Baratheon
"It's a small thing, really. I didn't think that Jon Arryn knew the truth. Even if he did, it died with him. I truly believed that. However, in the end, it simply didn't matter. Some of us thought that he died of sickness. Others, that he was poisoned. The truth, well it was irrelevant, you know. The Hand of the King was dead so obviously, the King needed a new Hand... We were to prepare for a journey to the North.
Winterfell... That's where everything changed…"
- Ser Jamie Lannister, Kingsguard
Chapter 1: How to sow a storm
The Red Keep
After a heart to heart conversation with Cersei, which would hopefully keep her from fucking my "uncle" Jamie, I found myself drifting and plotting. When I exited my mother's chambers, my personal Kingsguard, Ser Arys Oakheart fell in a step behind me on my right, while my Sworn Shield, Ser Marrek Storm took his place on the left.
Oakheart has been my personal bodyguard for close to a decade now, and one of the few people Durran explicitly trusted. From his memories, our memories now, I could conclude that he wasn't necessary wrong in that assessment. Arys was a tall, broad-shouldered man with light-brown hair, that was just a shade or two darker than a proper Lannister blond. That very thought made me shook my head trying to get away from the various nonsense Cersei has been doing her best to fill said head with over the years. In other words, Lannister red and gold were best colors ever and woe to anyone who didn't agree… My official bodyguard wore the white scale-mail armour he preferred under a tunic embodied with a golden oak three – the sigil of his House. A light woolen cloak painted blinding white hung behind him held by a pair of pins shaped like tiny oak threes as well.
Arys was anything but a small man, yet Marrek towered a head above him and rumour had it that he was just a bit smaller than father in his prime. A brutal mace and a wicked hunting knife hung from his belt, which occasionally scrapped against his knee long scale mail. The usually jovial man had a perpetual grimace on his face ever since we approached King's Landing yesterday. This was his second long visit to the city after he entered my service two years ago and he swore he would never get used to the bloody damned stench, a sentiment that I shared. This city was the stuff that fully sealed environmental armours were made for, and barring that, it begged to be burned from orbit until there was only a glassed crater left, before your quarantined everything in a thousand kilometer radius just in case.
Did I mention that even in the Red Keep the city's stench was oppressive?
"Where to, Your Highness?" Arys inquired.
"I need to stretch my legs and think." I announced and promptly turned around when I remembered that barring a short knife I was unarmed. We passed through my quarters so I could retrieve my sword belt, complete with the sword that came with it and a full coin purse and headed for the stables.
Servants and courtiers bowed and scurried out of our way, immediately getting on my nerves. I really didn't have the temperament for this shit but given the circumstances, simply running away and hoping for the best wasn't a course of action that was likely to see me living to a ripe old age.
First things first. Available assets – a small nest egg gathered from my lavish monthly stipend of a thousand gold dragons… which was a ridiculously large sum no matter how you sliced and diced it considering I had no real expenses to speak of before taking Marrek as my Sworn Shield and needing to provide for him. That was merely another proof that my father didn't get economics nor did he care for coppers counting as he gleefully put it every time the topic of money came up. Luckily for me, Durran hadn't been exactly thrilled by the idea of ending up like Robert and failed to drink, whore and gamble away the majority of his stipend. That in turn meant that I was supposed to have access to somewhere around twenty thousand golden dragons, more money than the populations of whole villages and even smallish towns would ever earn through their lives, much less see in one place.
In other words, I was practically filthy rich and had enough disposable gold for various projects and a lot of necessary bribes. That was the good news. Now figuring out how to best make said money work for me was going to be tougher, because among other problems I had to look up to paying Robert's debts without selling the throne to my grandfather. Perhaps renting the damn thing so people could sit on it while I made something more comfortable the royal chair? Nah, it wouldn't work, right?
Where was I? Assets. I was a bloody Prince, which did offer me some clout and a lot of scrutiny. The former would be helpful, the later a major pain in the ass, but there was no helping it.
More assets? Whatever I could misplace from the Red Keep and offload on the black market, but that was a concern for later.
What did I need ASAP? Well, I needed spies, agents and a small cadre of loyal men and women. Just the pair dutifully marching behind me wasn't going to cut it though it was nice to have someone watching my back.
What else? Well, I needed to see for myself what I had to work with while trying to figure out what I knew that could make gold flow my way in enough quantity to make a difference on national scale. There were those millions of debt to pay, potential civil war to fight in order to keep my head, assassinations to pay for, people to bribe, long term projects to finance…
Perhaps I should have secluded myself in my room with a quill and a stack of parchment first…
All right. Goals, and how to achieve them: Goal the first, keep yours truly alive, which was going to prove harder said than done.
Goal number two, keep Cella safe and happy, murder the fuck of everyone who looks funny her way in novel and terrible ways.
Goal the third, get more gold, all the gold.
Goal three point one, figure out how to get said gold.
Goal four, recruit a small retinue of people I could actually trust - again, easier said than done.
Goal five, build my own reliable spy network, complete with the odd wet-works team, though the latter I could fold in the previous goal.
Goal six, make sure that certain people croak ASAP, without it being traced back to me. In no particular order, Joff, also known as dead man walking, Varys, our unlamented spymaster, Little Finger, the little prick… father before he figures out I'm all Lannister, unless I find some crazy way to make everyone believe that my looks notwithstanding, I'm more Baratheon than most real Baratheons…
Goal seven, find a way to deal with the Targs across the sea.
Goal eight – prepare to face off Ice zombies and their masters who would want to eat my face or worse.
I was sure I would be adding a lot of points to this goal list once I fully got over the predicament I found myself in and could consider more angles, opportunities and threats.
Street of Steel
When one visits the Street of Steel, it's practically impossible to miss the largest house built at its upper end, which was probably by design. Nowadays, this was the home and workshop of arguably the best and wealthiest smith in the city if not all the Seven Kingdoms, one Tobho Mott. The blacksmith's workshop took the whole first floor of the wood and plaster house, though to be fair, a part of the place was set aside to act as an actual shop. The man himself was outside, swinging a hammer at a red hot piece of metal at his anvil, while a young apprentice looked attentively at his work. Two younger boys were busy working the bellows, while another one kept an eye on display racks with various pieces of armour and weaponry.
The Master Blacksmith was an older man who appeared to be in his mid fifties. He was bald, with short, carefully cropped graying beard, which was nonetheless singed. While a thick leather mantle kept his front reasonably safe, his thick, trunk like arms were bare and covered with all kinds of burns – occupational hazard I guessed.
While we approached the workshop, the smell of burning charcoal managed to overwhelm the stench of King's Landing, reaffirming Durran's conclusion that this was one of the best places in the city. As we came closer and Mott recognized us, he stiffened and glanced warily at his apprentice, which naturally made me took a closer look at the lad. Huh, he looked rather familiar, like my half brother Eddard Storm, who was the ward of Storm End's Castellan… So father strikes again, I guessed, briefly wondering if I could make me a small army if I gathered all my half siblings and offered them to work for me…
"Master Mott, good to see you again!" I proclaimed cheerfully. I knew the man, kind of, he made my current sword and it was a fine blade, worth its almost exorbitant price.
"Your Highness," The old man stepped away from the anvil and gave me a respectful bow. "How can I be of service?"
"I have a few ideas I want to run by you, Master Mott, though I don't think that all of them would be an appropriate challenge for someone of your ability."
"I do have apprentices and Journeymen working for me, however if it's for you, I'll do it myself, Your Highness. Only the best for the Prince!" He buttered me with a grin.
Only the best and most expensive as befitting anything made personally by a Master Blacksmith, right.
"Shall we discuss what I need inside?" I nodded towards the house.
Mott smiled wildly, removed his apron and handed it to my half-brother. "Gendry, mind the workshop." The blacksmith nodded at the lad and waved us towards the house.
The entrance was impressive as ever. The double doors were thick and covered with carved ebony and weirwood showing a hunting scene, and they almost paled in comparison to the "guards" flanking them. A pair of large stone statues stood beside the entrance and each of them was clad in a full suit of red shining armour, one shaped like a griffin and the other like a unicorn. It was a most impressive craftsmanship and a great way for Mott to advertise his skills.
The Master smith led us through towards a stairway leading to the second floor. "Maya, bring us ale! Hurry, girl!" Mott shouted. "Come, come and make yourselves comfortable!" He waved at us eagerly and went up the stairs like a man half his age. Arys went up first, placing a hand on the hilt of his sword, while Marrek remained behind me and I was sure he was looking warily around. Good men.
"Come on in, Your Highness." My bodyguard announced that it was clear and I went up the stairs.
The second floor was divided in two – one large living room, and a smaller one to the side separated by a wooden wall and a simple door, leading to a bath, a privy or both. The larger room contained a decent sized bed covered with various furs, at a glance I could see a black bear one and at leas two wolf pelts. Our host ushered us towards a big stout table flanked by two benches just as light feet came running up the stairs.
"Ale, Master Mott." A timid voice announced.
I looked back at the stairway to see a slim girl wearing a plain woolen dress come up wearing a wooden tray with a clay carafe filled with bubbling ale. She had shoulder length curly brown hair, large black eyes and quite nice curves forming at all the right places. I shook my head at and had to stop myself from groaning. Fucking teenage hormones, dealing with those was going to be a nightmare. Perhaps a visit to one of the better brothels might be in order, then again doing so might end with me getting many of the diseases known to man, not to mention it would be too close to father's favourite past time. Then again, it wasn't like Durran have been exactly celibate…
"A nice home you have here, Master Mott." I said and sat at one end of the closer bench, valiantly trying to keep my mind on topic. Seriously, fuck being teenager! "I like what you've done with the place." We waited until the girl poured us mugs of ale and made herself scarce before we began talking business.
"How can I be of service, Your Highness? You mentioned multiple projects?" The blacksmith's eyes shone in anticipation.
"That I did, Master Mott. I'll need to run a few of them past the members of the blacksmith's guild. I believe you'll be able to arrange a meeting? How does the end of the week sound?" I began.
"I'm sure my colleagues are going to be eager to hear what you have in mind." Mott nodded.
I wasn't so sure about that, but we would see.
"Meanwhile, I do need a few things done. How long would it take to create a hundred identical copies of each letter of the alphabet? About this large?" I raised a hand demonstrated with thumb and index finger.
"About a finger joint in size?" Mott rubbed his chin.
"Yes. Ten copies of each letter in double that size as well." Frankly, I was talking about my arse. I hadn't done any math about how many letters I would need to fill up a page, however this request was going to be feasible to be done soonish so I could get a proof of concept working. I considered asking the blacksmith to make a frame for the press, though that wasn't really necessary. I would be passing through the carpenter's guild to have a chat with the people there and see for myself what workforce they had available and get one done there.
This was both about getting gold flowing my way and necessary for the newest addition to my rough goals list – set up the foundation of a proper bureaucracy. Somewhere in there was a vague plan to get the Faith and Maesters on my side so we could monopolize mass production of books to sell to the nobles. A few special editions of the Seven Pointed Star might raise quite a lot of gold if I could con all the noble Houses in Westeros in buying them because they would be the hottest new thing. Speaking about books, I had vague plans of creating the first proper paper in Westeros if not Planetos as well to serve as my personal propaganda outlet, bringing the right news to the masses… who in turn would need to be able to read and write sooner rather than later, because my bureaucratic horror machine would need people to run it… Well, that was a worry for another time…
Seeing the Pyromancers' Guild building with my eyes stirred a memory loose in my head. Barrels of green death left to stew for more than a decade in the bowels of the city, perhaps below our bloody feet right then and there. It took all the willpower I had to not do something stupid as I recalled that we were all extremely lucky to be alive right now. New number one goal, go confront "uncle" Jamie about the reason why he killed Aerys the insane pyromaniac as soon as I was done with the current task, figure out how the break the news without loosing a potentially very useful assets and perhaps earn my real father's undying respect and gratitude as well… not to mention keep Jamie alive, because once it dawned to people how much of an imbecile he has been, they might off him on general principle, saving King's Landing notwithstanding.
An acolyte met us at the doors while another one ran to summon the chief fire loving maniac. The lad led us into something that suspiciously looked like a primitive chemistry lab. I had just a few moments to look around before the Wisdom practically ran in, grinning like a loon. He was apparently tickled pink to have royal attention.
"While this setup is certainly impressive, I can't help but notice that it's a bit run-down." I shook my head sadly. "This simply wouldn't do, do you agree, Wisdom…?" I trailed off.
The chief pyromaniac was an old man complete with a short white beard. He wore a leather cap that hid any hair he might have and was dressed in thick leather clothes that might or might not offer some protection against whatever the maniacs were busy cooking nowadays. He also had a thick metal chain around his neck, which was a ringer for those worn by the Maesters.
"I'm Hallyne the Pyromancer, Your Highness!" The man introduced himself with an eager nod. "It's an honour that you grace us with your presence!"
"It's good to meet you, Wisdom Hallyne." I made a grand show of waving around. "We can't have such an important place be so run-down!" I exclaimed aloud making the Wisdom and the acolytes jump. "What would it take to make this laboratory among the best both in Westeros and Essos?" I demanded.
Hallyne's eyes did their best to pop out of their sockets once my words registered, they shone with glee as well and he began reciting by heart what he needed. I was sure that most of what he wanted would need to be specially build for the guild and thus damn expensive, which was another incentive to get myself a healthy income beyond my stipend.
"That's all? I'll make sure you get the necessary dragons for such worthy endeavour as soon as I can!" I clasped my hands.
My hosts fell over themselves at that statement.
"That said, I can think of a few things that you can do to help me expedite that process." I smiled like the fox that found the chicken coop wide open. "I believe you're in the unique position to help me help you!"
"Of course, Your Highness! What do you need?" The Chief Wisdom blurted out without thinking.
"There are a few worthy projects I have in mind," I began. Who would have thought that gaining the allegiance of the local pyromaniacs would be so simple? I just needed to throw some money at the problem and give them rough directions towards building some crude primitive napalm… and I was sure that the mere thought gave hardons to the creepy bastards. I was sure that they would start trying to combine napalm and wildfire… something I had to make sure would be attempted as far away from the city as practical.
A rough description on the basics behind a steam engine followed, though most of it would have to be recreated by the local worthies. I promised to send some blacksmiths their way once they had a preliminary design, but only after I extracted a promise that they won't be testing how it might work with wildfire. Why did I think coming here was a good idea, I might never know…
"You can try running a prototype or two with your special concoctions after we've made sure we have the device properly working." I said in a soothing tone, something that made the Wisdom light up like a little kid in a candy store. "One more thing, Wisdom Hallyne. I found some Valyrian scrolls that explained how to make some kind of exploding powder and I thought you might be interested in it."
"Exploding powder… I've heard stories about something like that but I believe the knowledge has been lost…" The Wisdom hummed.
"It is supposed to be a mixture of three elements, which if mixed in proper proportion will explode if exposed to fire or even just a spark. However the scrolls were in a very bad condition. What I found out was that two of the elements were sulfur and charcoal as for the third..." I shrugged helplessly. I had no idea how to explain potassium nitrate and I couldn't recall what was its natural bloody form, damn it. This was one of the cases where meshing my memories with Durran's wasn't particularly helpful.
"We'll figure it out if its at all possible!" Hallyne assured me with a distant look in his eyes. "We'll have our hands full thanks to you, Your Highness!" He added happily. "Do you know how this powder might compare to wildfire?"
"From the brief descriptions that survived, it certainly won't be as potent but it should be more stable."
"Perhaps if we mix them once we figure it out..." The Wisdom began muttering to himself.
Note to self, find the money to build the pyromaniacs a new compound safely outside the city and figure out how to persuade the maniacs to keep proper notes of their knowledge, research and experiments in King's Landing, far away from a building they might blow up…
"Speaking about stability, I'm ready to pay good money for a more stable and safe to handle version of wildfire. It might be great for naval combat and during sieges."
"We've been trying to do that for ages now, Your Highness, unfortunately..." The Wisdom shrugged helplessly. "When we eventually succeed it will be glorious!" He declared with utter conviction.
I wondered who was crazier, the resident chief pyromaniac or my mother. I shook my head, that thought couldn't lead to anything good. "Perhaps letting the wildfire age to lose a bit of its potency..." I suggested. They must have surely tried that, right?
"No, no!" Hallyne sharply shook his head. "The older it gets, the less stable wildfire becomes."
Ah, yeah. That. Fuck me and fuck Jamie, the bloody fool...
The Red Keep
On the way back to the keep, I had to endure funny looks from my two shadows, all the while I was busy trying to figure out how to play confronting Jamie. There was no question that I've suddenly changed and it would be noticed. Hells, it was already noticed by at least two people, though I still held hope that there won't be too many awkward questions I couldn't properly answer. That said, needs must, I had more immediate issues to tackle. First I needed to get hold of my "uncle" and ask him pointed questions. If we were all very, very lucky, what everyone knew was for once the truth and we didn't stood upon enough unstable alchemical hellfire to wipe the city off the map.
For some reason, I wasn't feeling optimistic on that note, even though I could see a silver lining. If we managed to play our cards right, and didn't blow up in the process, any attempt at Targaryen restoration would face widespread and armed resistance because no one would want the crazies back in charge. The obvious downside was that if Daenerys manages to hatch a bunch of flying, fire-breathing WMDs and lived long enough for them to grown up, almost all arguments against her heritage would become a moot point. The prospect of dying thanks to flying, man-eating flamethrowers tended to have such effect on people, just go ask Aegon the Conqueror.
Another plus was that with a bit of luck, I might come out of this smelling like roses and having a great deal of goodwill and appreciation to work with.
Once we got out of the city proper and on the ramp leading to the Red Keep I slowed down my horse to a mere trot and leaned back in the saddle. "Sers, I've had a thought I hope for all our sake it is merely a paranoid one." I began after looking around to be sure no one was in a position to overhear us. "Back during the sack, my uncle Jamie killed the mad King and his Hand, the then Chief Pyromaniac. What do you think of the odds that those two crazy bastards stuck as much wildfire below the city in preparation to burn it to the ground along with any rebels who might have breached the walls?"
Both Arys and Marrek stared at me with expressions of growing horror.
"And if that was the case, what are the odds of that fucking thing being left to ferment below our very feet for more than a decade now?" I added.
"We need to speak with Ser Jamie..." Arys came to his senses first and spurred his horse into a gallop and we followed. Thankfully, I did inherit Durran's skills, of which horse ridding was in fact the most useful one, with writing with a damned quill being the second one on the list, I hoped.
We skidded to a halt in the courtyard, handed the reins of our horses to a confused Red Cloak who was conveniently nearby and headed into the keep with Oakheart leading and asking about Jamie's whereabouts. Soon a flustered servant told us that the King had headed to visit Lord Arryn, with Jamie and Ser Selmy in tow so we had to backtrack and had to head for the Tower of the Hand.
A pair of Arryn Men at Arms stood guard at the entrance and confirmed what the servant just told us before waving us through, probably assuming that we were either in to pay our respects to their ill liege or on important business. My companions' pale visage could be interpreted either way, I guessed. We went past the Small Hall, where the Small Council often met, and headed up the stairs leading towards the Hand's private audience chamber, bedroom and the quarters for his family when they were in King's Landing. The only people we met were a handful of servants who hurried to get out of our way and soon we reached the audience chamber. It was richly decorated with Myrish rugs and wall hangings, bookshelves and various knick-knacks favoured by Lord Arryn. The morning sun shone through gold tinted round windows and an open wooden door leading to a small balcony overlooking the gardens.
Most importantly, Jamie was there, leaning on the wall near the stairway leading up.
"Arys, Durran!" My "uncle" greeted us with a grin.
"Ser Jamie." Oakheart glowered.
"Uncle, we need to know something and I hope for all our sakes, you're going to tell us the truth right here and now!" I began before my bodyguard could said something else. "When you killed the mad King, why did you do it? Was it just because the crazy bastard demanded you bring him grandfather's head or was there something more? Like the reason you gutted the chief pyromaniac styling himself as Hand of the King? A reason like barrels of wildfire stashed across the city?" I demanded before Jamie could even think about denying or any excuses.
My word had the desired effect. Jamie flinched back as if struck and his cocky smile vanished without a trace. He blanched and looked away.
"Durran, I...' My father stammered, words failing him.
"Damn it, man, are there barrels of wildfire below our feet as we speak or not?! That's what we need to know right now!" Marrek lost his patience and demanded answers.
"Aye, but they should be harmless..." Jamie stammered.
At that moment, more than anything else, I wanted to reach out and strangle the bloody imbecile with his ridiculous white cloak.
"You bloody fool..." I hissed at Jamie.
"What's that racket down there?" A familiar, less than pleased voice demanded and we heard the familiar sound of heavy boots on stone as someone rand down the stairs.
Ser Selmy appeared a moment later, frown marring his face. "Ser Jamie, Ser Oakheart, Your Highness..." He greeted us in turn as he took in our presence. "There is a very sick man upstairs; Lord Arryn doesn't need to be disturbed. What is this about?" The old knight added in a quiet voice that brook no argument.
"Are you going to tell him, uncle, or should I?" I looked at my father.
"Erm, you see… There's nothing..."
"Wildfire doesn't lose potency with age, it grows more powerful and unstable! A bloody rat or some poor bastard going at the wrong place can easily set it off and kill us all!" I snapped at the imbecile masking as my uncle.
"What wildfire?!" Barristan demanded.
"Uncle over here, in his infinite wisdom, failed to mention to anyone the real reason he killed that prick Aerys. The madman and his pyromaniac friends had stashed wildfire all over the city intending to burn it down if a rebel army breached the walls. Either that or that maniac wanted to try and become a dragon or something by burning the city to the ground." I fumed and jabbed a finger at Jamie's chest. "And this idiot over here didn't mention it to anyone. We've been standing on the Seven only know how many barrels of wildfire, which could blow up at the slightest of disturbances!" I spat, finally loosing my temper.
Everyone stared at Jamie with either dawning horror, contempt or as if they were trying to figure out what kind of imbecile he was.