He looked at the rider and couldn't help but give him the most taunting, mocking look he could as the man slid out of his saddle, boots hitting the dusty rock and sending up a small plume.
"You look like shit."
Adrian may have been being blunt but he wasn't wrong. The rider's shirt was damp and stuck to his chest, beads of perspiration visible upon the man's skin. His face was burnt from the wind and the sun and his eyes were inflamed by both he brightness of the Dornish day and the sweat that was falling into them. His hair, a dark brown with threads of gold running through it, was plastered to his head and he could tell by the crooked and choppy bangs that it had been once longer only to be hacked off; mostly likely in an attempt to deal with the heat which was a smart move. Nearly all men in Dorne kept their hair short for that reason and many of the low born women did as well. The long lush hair that the rest of the Seven Kingdoms thought was so grand was dead weight in the Dornish desert. Cracking lips and an enflamed nose from all the sand that had been sucked into his lungs completed the utterly miserable picture that was the rider.
"I feel like it," the man said with a grumble and Adrian already knew he wasn't going to like the new arrival. It was one thing to grouse about the weather, the Seven knew he and his men had done enough of that when they'd first arrived even with their preparations, but the way the other man bit off the words made it clear he blamed Adrian for the situation he was in. He rolled his eyes. If he were master of the sun he wouldn't be the Red Mountains. "I was hoping you'd be Kingsgrave, not wasting your time out here."
'Yeah… this prick is a real piece of work,' Adrian thought to himself. A puffed up messenger boy with a fancy shield and ornate sword who thought himself to be very important purely because he served a powerful man. One only had to look at him and see the remnants of his armor and clothing, that which he hadn't been forced to cast aside in his travel, to come to that understanding. His horse was a strong and large beast that was wholly unsuited for traveling through the Red Mountains; that was an animal made for riding around tournament grounds or standing before a line of men that were about to charge into battle. One needed a nimble creature in the stony parts of Dorne but the rider hadn't been thinking that. No no… he'd only been concerned with the image he'd project while leaving King's Landing, looking all gallant for the washer women that saw him ride past, pretending he were some mighty lord as the banner of the King, with the stag of House Baratheon in ebony thread and the lion of House Lannister in golden fabric, snapping in the breeze.
'Well, at least the horse is doing better than the flag,' Adrian thought. The poor beast was tired and in desperate need of water and a bit of grass, but with proper care he might live. The flag was beyond saving, for it was torn and bleached out already from the blazing sun and hung limp and dirty from the pole that had been attached to the saddle.
"Can't do our work from Kingsgrave," Adrian said, motioning for the man to follow him towards the mouth of the cave that had been Adrian and his group's home for the last few weeks. In contrast to the puffed up rider Adrian was wearing a loose cream colored shirt that was favored by sailors and pirates (many times they were one and the same) that prowled of the coasts of Cape Wrath. His pants were made of a sturdy material that allowed him to kneel and brush against the sharp rocks of the Red Mountains without fearing tears and his boots, while plain, were thick-soled and had deep groves cut into them to allow the best traction. "What? You thought this was just some excuse to go drink Dornish Red and laze about watching the whores prance about barefoot with nothing on?" He ran a hand over his creased and worn face, palm grazing his close cropped hair. He already knew that the rider had believed it to be just that; after all, he probably expected to do the same thing, though he'd never admit it. "We've been hard at work… come on, let me show you what we've found. It's… impressive."
"I was concerned," the rider said as they entered the cave, the sun's rays disappearing and leaving only the flickering of torches to light their way, "when I came up here. I thought the shepherds that had pointed me this way had led me into a trap. Thought this was a bandit camp at first."
"I get that," Adrian said, ducking down under a low hanging piece of rock. "You'll find we're rather casual here."
"The King provided you with quite a bit of coin…" the other men said.
"And we are using that for the expedition. Food, supplies. If we wasted it on building up cabins to live in we still wouldn't have begun exploring the caves, let alone have enough to actually remain here."
"And yet you don't even fly the King's flag," the rider pressed.
Adrian rolled his eyes as they came to a junction; one path was in complete darkness and had an improvised barrier of wood covering part of it while the other half was lit and marked with blue paint. "Careful," Adrian told him, motioning for him to follow; the rider had paused at the barrier and begun to peer over it. "The caves in this part of the Red Mountains were a horrifying branching network that seemed more the creation of a demented mad-man than the Seven. Sometimes they are tunnels like this, other times caves as tall as any lord's hall with as many layers and pathways to boot. And you don't know when a trial will suddenly give away. That right there," he pointed to the barrier, "about 3 feet past that wood leads to a drop. Not sure how far down… we tried measuring it but we didn't have enough rope." The other man quickly leapt back and began to follow Adrian once again. "We had to map this carefully, with torches and rope and even being slow we still lost two men. Dark Orso wasn't paying attention and ended up falling off a ledge. He was the lucky one… fall smashed his head in. Dirk though… dumb bastard got drunk, went off to take a piss, and he was lost."
"Died of a fall as well?"
"No, I mean he was lost." Adrian turned and gave him a gallows grin. "You take a wrong turn in here and you aren't ever leaving. Dirk could still be alive, wandering around in the dark, no knowing which way was up. I'd rather have a knife in my belly than die that way: slow, alone, thinking if you only went a bit further you might make it out but all you do is get yourself lost…" He shrugged. "Still, as I said we are casual here."
"But proper decorum should be shown," the rider argued. "You are here because of his Grace, King Joffrey, and it is only proper that you, who are benefiting from his coin, should show your thanks by flying his standard-"
"Where are we right now?" Adrian asked, cutting the man off. "I'm not being humorous."
"The Red Mountains," the other man said in annoyance. "Ser Adrian-"
"We are in Dorne," Adrian said, realizing he'd never asked for the other man's name and honestly didn't care to learn it. He was a pompous little twit with no real power, existing only thanks to the strength of others. In other words he was worthless. "Here the Stag and the Lion are the most accursed symbols. Tell me, how much help did you get when you were riding to this place?" The rider didn't say a word. "Did you suddenly find your coin purse lighter than you'd expected?" He chuckled. "They saw that flag and charged you double or triple for goods as punishment."
"Bastards," the rider hissed, placing his hand on the pommel of his sword and drawing it an inch. "When I return-"
"Sheath that, you idiot," Adrian snarled. "They aren't here so all you'll do is hurt yourself." He shook his head at the stupidity of some people. "The only thing you could have done to make them hate you more would have been to fly a flag with Ellia Martell's corpse on it. Count yourself lucky all they did was overcharge you some silver stags."
"They are criminals and thieves, the lot of them," the rider snarled. "All of Dorne is. King Joffrey will see to that though… oh yes he will! Even if he has to turn the entire desert into glass he will finally bring order to these sandy barbarians-"
Adrian tuned the man out. He was the worst kind of sycophant: the one that actually believes what he spouted. Those who merely preached because it kept them safe could be dangerous to those in power, especially in times of strife, but were predictable at the very least. But the true believers? They were dangerous men for when their lord or king held sway they marched about as the most entitled pricks in all the Seven Kingdoms. And when things turned dark they were liked cornered feral rats, snapping at anything be it friend or foe.
The knight had never been a supporter of the high born, to be honest, and thus didn't understand those that were blindly loyal to them. Ser Adrian had been born to a Reach family with no House Name but that was supposed to be an honor, the only of its kind in Westeros. Or, at least, that's what his ancestors had tried to claim; loudly and often it seemed. When the Gardener line had been wiped from existence on the Field of Fire their stewards, the Tyrells, had been given Highgarden and control of all the Reach. The castle they had served as stewards had become their own but if one believed that the former servants would remember what it was like to toil for ungrateful masters and be better lords to their own maids and cooks and men-at-arms than they were sadly mistake. The Tyrells were being watched by all the other families of the Reach who felt they should have been given command after the ending of the Gardener line and thus any show of leniency or understanding with the 'lessers' of Highgarden was viewed as the gravest of risks. Thus the Tyrells acted just as pompous and entitled as any of the old families, forgetting entirely their roots. An amusing turn of events, considering their house sigil.
While the Tyrells had been quick to claim all they could of the Gardeners, from their castle to their lordly seat to their standing in the Seven Realms, there was one thing even they had never attempted to obtain: the Crypts of Highgarden. Adrian never did learn the reason why the Tyrells chose not to bury their dead beside those of the Gardener kings, though the whispered rumors were numerous. Some said that Aegon the Conqueror had commanded them never to do so, to prevent them from believing they were on the same standing as even dead kings, let alone living ones. Others claimed that Harlen Tyrell had dreamed of his fallen king Mern IX the day after he surrendered Highgarden, the burnt corpse proclaiming that he and all the Gardener Kings that had come before him would be waiting for Harlen and his line to have their revenge for their betrayal. Harlen had gone to a mystic who stated that if his family was never buried in the crypts than the ghosts of the Gardeners would never be able to claim him. A tavern wench with a moody disposition named Ravan had given him the best answer, which was that the crypts of Highgarden were flooded and the Tyrells simply didn't want to bury their dead where they would bloat and rot nor waste the coin it would cost the drain the catacombs, choosing to brick the entire thing off instead.
Whatever the reason it had been decided by Harlan's son Theo that the dead of House Tyrell would be placed in a grand mausoleum of green stone surrounded by fields of white orchids. This structure would become known as The Tombs and the family placed in charge of this 'sacred duty' gave up their surname and dedicated themselves to watching over the Tyrell dead and caring for the lands around the structure.
Adrian scoffed as he took the left at another branching path, the rider still prattling on about what vengeance he would deliver upon the Dornish that had robbed him. 'Honor. We were tricked into it and now are too scared to admit our ancestors were fools.' Not that anyone in the family understood that. His father Clifton, his grandfather Jaime, continually down the line all the way back to Raniero of The Tombs, the founder of his 'House', had done their duty without question, wanting nothing more out of their lives than to be glorified cemetery keepers.
His own life seemed determined to force him to meekly accept the destiny all felt he should embrace. In his youth he had sought out any knight he could, hoping to find one that would take him on as their squire. But those knights never wanted him… they wanted the sons of highborn lords, who would one day rule over coveted lands. They wanted children with grand connections and important blood, so they might boast of how they'd taught them the ways of the sword. Next he had tried to join the High Faith, despite not being a pious man himself, but that had ended when a Septon had claimed that the Seven spoke to him and that Adrian must 'return to the orchid fields'. The Faith had taken that as a sign that the Gods wanted him to continue watching over the Tyrell dead but Adrian was convinced that the 'vision' was faked, to give the Septon, a Florent, greater standing in the Faith. And the fact that the Tyrells had given the Starry Sept a donation of gold dragons right after the 'vision' was purely good luck. After that he'd gone to the Citadel and for two years he'd believed that finally he'd broken free of his family's legacy, only for one of the Hightowers to decide that he was better skilled with blades than books and offer to take him on as a squire… despite the fact that at that point Adrian was ten and eight, far too old for such work. Still, he had accepted… only to be knighted within two months and then told that no knight could be a Maester, for the Knights of the Mind and the Knights of the Blade must be separate, so it would be best if he simply returned home.
'I would claim I was cursed, if I didn't see the heavy hand of the Tyrells in all this,' Adrian thought to himself. Time and again something would happen to snatch fame and glory from him, leaving him once more just Ser Adrian of The Tombs. Second place in tournies. Plans to visit distant lands suddenly scuttled by captains needing to set in for repairs. Even Robert's Rebellion had seen him sidelined… though in that case Mace Tyrell had done that to everyone, not just him. He'd wanted to ride into battle and instead been forced to sit around as they sieged a single castle. 'But this… this is my chance at long last,' he thought as they plunged deeper into the mountain, the air growing cooler the greater the depths. 'What we've discovered here… the world will remember us forever.'
"Ser Adrian, if you could… I think we should-"
"We can talk once we get there. Our home away from home." He grinned. "I'd love to take credit for all of this but everyone has played their part." They reached a drop off and Adrian spun around and began to descend a ladder. "Keep a tight grip, the rungs haven't broken recently but it's a bit of a drop if they do." He chuckled and began to go down.
The rider huffed impatiently. "Ser Adrian, I have come a long way to see you and-"
"I know," Adrian said, cutting him off. "I suspected we'd get a visitor after we stopped sending ravens to King's Landing but every time I tried to leave… well, you'll see!" Setting his feet onto solid ground Adrian waited for the rider to get off the ladder before pointing towards a rocky bridge about 8 feet in width. "Watch your step… fall is only about 14 feet so it shouldn't kill you but it's a pain to get back up. Rock's too rough, can't get a good handhold as it just ends up cutting up your hands. Hurmin said we should map out the area but I really don't want to waste the time… from the torches we tossed down there it appears to only go down, not up."
They crossed the bridge and came to a large wide area, about 10 yards across and wide, where Adrian and his team had set up their camp. A few small tents, nothing grand but a place to sleep, were up against one wall and by another was a wood workbench that had been an absolute bitch to bring in, Phineas sitting hunched over it examining his latest project. There was no need for torches in this part of the mountain and the rider looked up, his face finally breaking from the cold arrogant mask he'd been wearing to reveal true shock. Adrian didn't blame him… above them the mountain soared up and up but rather than stone it was blue sky that shone down upon them, illuminating the cavern.
"Yeah, we felt the same way," Adrian said, folding his arms over his chest and shaking his head as he looked up at the great opening. "Hell of a thing. You think it has to be natural but who knows nowadays." He started forward. "Anyway, this is Phineas, he is the brains of all of this. Looks things over, tells us what's treasure and what's trash." Phineas, a heavy set man with a mild nature and a gift for tinkering and repairs, never bothered to look up from the workbench, merely raising his hand to acknowledge that he'd heard Adrian. He had several Sunstone lamps near him that he'd purchased for a heavy sum and when the rider looked over at him Phineas was in the middle of breaking one open before looking at the glowing gem before considering an array of different metals. Adrian and him had known each other for years, back from the Citadel; Phineas had been tossed out for looking into restricted studies. He'd made his coin fixing all sorts of things in King's Landing and when Adrian had learned they were chasing after history he'd brought him along. Used to the man getting sucked into his work he merely smiled and moved on. "And this is Hurmin and this is Brice." The two, who were sitting next to their tents playing with dice, looked up and nodded. Hurmin had been one of the few men that had come with the exiled Summer Islander Jalabhar Xho to King's Landing but had jumped at the chance to join Adrian's expedition, seeing it as far more interesting than constantly sitting around the Red Keep, protecting his prince who didn't have the balls to reclaim him throne. Brice was a sellsword from the Crownlands with a shaved head and a cropped beard, a mustard-yellow shirt worn under a dark maroon vest. Brice had been one of the men the King had sent out to find some bastard named Jory or Gendry or something like that but had returned empty handed and thus needed coin. He'd come along because Adrian needed someone who knew their way around the Red Mountains and Brice had traveled through the area a few times for some jobs. "Though they are supposed to be working…"
"I told them to stop," Phineas said. "I am nearly done with the gauntlets I told you about but the final bit of fitting is delicate work. Them hammering on rocks was making my hand shake. Not that it matters… I don't think we're going to find anything else past the chamber."
"I got the rest of the guys in another cavern, going through and cataloging what we've found." He let out a laugh. "You… you will think that all of that is the big score, but let me tell you, it ain't." He held his arms out wide. "This place here has the important stuff."
The rider sneered. "And that is why I am here, Ser Adrian. To discuss what you're doing here."
Adrian nodded and motioned for the rider to take a seat at another table that served as their place to eat, a few wobbly wooden stools surrounding it. While he didn't like the man one bit he did understand that it was important to play nice with him. He was a stuck up prick but he represented the King and that meant he needed to give him proper respects. "Want something to drink? There is an underground stream we use, water gets real cold. Perfect for days like this." He grabbed two wooden cups and poured for both of them. The other man accepted, though he did scowl a bit at the rather plain drinkware, though he did drain his glass once the cool water touched his tongue. "I know, right? Just perfect. Anyway, how much did they tell you about what we are doing here? His Grace wanted it kept secret so not sure how much you know."
"King Joffrey did not send me. It was Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King, Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West, who asked me to come to speak with you on this… assignment."
He frowned at that before nodding. "Right… no, I get that. Lord Tywin should be the contact person with all this." While he would have preferred to keep working directly under the King Joffrey the Hand wasn't a bad step down, all things considered. After all, the Hand of the King wielded the power of a King and could make or break a reign just as easily as a monarch could. And Lord Tywin's word held such weight... the more Adrian thought about it the more excited her got. "Alright, so brief history lesson and Phineas for the love of everything try not to butt in and tell me I am missing the small details!" The man merely looked up, shrugged, and went back to work. "King Joffrey tasked me with discovering the final resting place of Meraxes, the dragon of Queen Rhaenys, the younger bride of the Conqueror. His Grace felt that while having the skull of the beast was well and good but to have the full skeleton of a dragon would be an impressive thing and a good way to show he wasn't his father." At least that was the tale the Small Council sang... Adrian knew that it was more of a matter of scaring his enemies and he could completely get behind such a notion. Sometimes grand gestures were needed to remove one's self from the shadows. "Now, it is well known that Meraxes and her rider were shot out of the sky at the Hellholt so that's where we began our search. Well, not quite... to be honest we actually began in the official records of King's Landing, to see if the Grand Maesters had any information about what happened to Meraxes' bones after she was slain.
"We found some recordings that the rest of Meraxes had ended up in Blackmont, which is where we went to next. I won't bore you with how we got in there... let's just say Guest Rights weren't offered." He waved off the thought as that was just prolonging him getting to the truly interesting part and the rider was looking at him with barely held patience. "According to scrolls that were hidden the Maester's Tower at Blackmont only the head of Meraxes had been returned to King's Landing because the rest of it had been taken into the Red Mountains... by the Vulture King." He smiled at that, bobbing his head up and down. "Yeah... that Vulture King. The very first one. The only one that came close to the title of King.
"I took my men through the mountains, consulting with old wives' tales and passed down family stories until we finally found-" he held his arms out wide, "-this. This... is the Lair of the Vulture King!" He wagged his finger. "Oh, but it gets better! Come! Come!"
"Ser Adrian, I do not have time for this and neither do you. Lord Tywin has been looking the expeditions sent out by his Grace and with the war with the North remaining strong it is felt that such.. follies... as this are simply a waste of time."
He'd been expecting that. Praying to every God that would listen that he wouldn't hear it but expecting it nonetheless. Because that was his lot in life, his curse... every time he came to the cusp of greatness, of breaking out of the legacy his family had made, someone came by and dashed it all away.
But this time was different. This time he wasn't on the cusp. This time... he'd found greatness.
"No... no no no. You don't understand!" He moved towards an alcove that was on the opposite side of where they slept and worked, waving for the man to come over. "The Maesters were wrong! The Vulture King... was no king!" He grabbed a torch and thrust it into the carved alcove. The light danced and flickered but the image was clear to see, as stark and startling as when Adrian and his crew had found it: a coffin with the likeness of a long haired beauty carved upon its lid. "Rhaenys didn't die at the Hellholt! She lived... and as she recovered she fell in love with the man history would come to believe was the Vulture King. He told her of his people's will to be free, of their passion and determination, and she grew to respect the wishes of the Dornish. She herself had never been free, always promised to Aegon, always his second bride. He loved her more than her sister but she did not love him." He hurried over to another part of the cavern, this one closer to Phineas' table, and pulled out scrolls. "It's all right here! In her own hand! She wed him, Alyosha of the Red Mountains, and together they decided to fight her brother in secret."
"Ser Adrian," the rider said with a long suffering sigh. "No one cares of ancient history other than the maesters and even then those fools would care little for any of this." At that the rest of Adrian's group looked up, watching the man with sharp intensity as he brought down their labors and made them small. "Lord Tywin needs to win the war we fight now, not find out how others began. You have wasted time and coin on a folly and it is time to return to your duty!"
Adrian though wouldn't hear of it, his blood raising and thundering in his skull. "Folly? Folly? Do you know how much time and effort we've put into this? A lot. And it wasn't just the King's coin that I spent. I wanted to make that last so I chipped in quite a bit myself. Bought tools, supplies, paid out bribes... I've spent a lot in the name of this venture."
"That is no concern of the Hand's," the rider said.
He looked about. "We are rewriting history! Lord Tywin, he has no love for the Targs, right? Well this proves that the Conqueror's own wife turned against him! That stains the entire family! She was in bed with the Dornish! And-
The rider cut him off. "Ser Adrian, enough!" He squared his shoulders and did his best to look down on Adrian… despite lacking several inches on him. "The Seven Kingdoms cannot afford to waste time, coin, and men on such foolishness and flights of fancy. All are needed to ensure that the Realm prospers during this time of War and the coming of winter. It is time to put away all this and return to things that matter. The Tyrells have arrived in King's Landing and the wedding of-"
Adrian didn't hear anything else the rider said at that point. No, all he heard was the blood thundering in his ears. 'The Tyrells. The shit-fucking, cock-sucking, arrogant pieces of donkey butter Tyrells!' He could feel his entire body trembling. 'I should have fucking known… should have known that pampered fucking cunt Mace Tyrell was behind this. It didn't matter that Adrian's father was still alive. Didn't matter he had a younger brother who was all too happy to uphold the family honor. No… Mace Fucking Tyrell wanted Adrian back guarding the bones of his ancestors. 'Can't have people dreaming of rising up, of being better, of being more than they were born. No, that is something only the Tyrells can do!' This had been his last chance. If it failed now then he'd never escape the chains of duty and he'd end up like every man of his line before him, spending his days watching over graveflowers and making sure the bones stayed dry. And the Tyrells had convinced the Lannisters to help them do just that… to keep him forever ignored and unknown.
"Come here." When the rider made no move to follow Adrian darted forwards, surprising the man and wrapping an arm around his shoulder. "Come on, got one more thing to show you. Have to at least let me finish, would be rude not to. Now now," he reached down with his other hand and grabbed the rider's wrist before he could pull his blade. "Be careful... I might think you weren't interested in being friends with me. We're going to have a long ride back to King's Landing together and wouldn't do if we weren't pals." He grinned, increasing the strength of his grip while his other hand shifted so it was wrapped around the back of the man's throat. Brice and Hurmin both slowly rose, sensing the change in mode, and began to follow, both eager for a spot of violence. Adrian hadn't brought them along purely to haul cargo. "Trust me... it will be worth it when you see this."
"Ser Adrian-" the rider said, struggling slightly in his grip.
"Now, I know that most people won't find this interesting but I feel a touch different." He began to move the rider towards the largest archway in the chamber. "Rhaenys and her new husband knew they had to find a way to make their battles against her brother and his forces be effective. Not just in speed and strength but also perception. The Queen knew that part of the reason Aegon won was because dragons are scary fucking bastards. I read once that man still remembers when they were hunted by beasts rather than keeping them in cages and thus when we see even a drawing of something bigger and more fierce than us it brings back that primal urge to flee. But the Dornish didn't have dragons…" the entered the archway and walked several feet before pausing, Adrian staring at his final discovery, "…but they did have the bones of one."
Let it not be said that Rhaenys Targaryen wasn't a pragmatist. When her dragon had been shot out of the sky most others would have raged or mourned the loss of the beast and the gift of flight that had been lost. But Rhaenys, the woman who loved to talk with all sorts of entertainers and was a patron of creative minds and who had studied the ancient tomes of Valyria on Dragonstone that even the maesters had found ponderous, had refused to allow her dragon to go to waste.
There, hanging on a great rack made of ironwood, were the bones of Meraxes… carved into a pair of great ebony wings.
Rib bones had been used to make the frame of the wings, the strength and the flexibility of those iron-rich pieces making them perfect for the task. The feathers had been carved from larger parts of the dragon, like his thigh bones, and had been carefully set and locked into place so that there was no way a man could remove them. The wings were attached to a black harness made from the finger joints of the great beast, so that the wearer was literally being held by the dead monster when they put it on.
"It must have taken either years of preparation or an army of craftsmen to create these," Adrian said, releasing the rider and walking over to the wings and running a hand over them. He didn't worry about the idiot drawing his sword as Hurmin and Brice were now behind him, hands on their own hilts. The rider was staring at the wings now, a bit startled by them, but his entire posture screaming that he was returning to his default opinion that all Adrian had done was find a pretty bauble to display in the Red Keep for gawking visitors. "Look at the feathers… now those are the interesting part." He waved for the rider to come closer, like a father would try to coax a scared child to come look at a large but friendly dog, and as the man did so Adrian slipped into the harness and began to secure the belts that Phineas had added. "See the texture on them? Not what you'd expect. Almost look like runes, right? Except… not runes from Westeros?" He grinned. "Old Valyria. The younger of the Conqueror's queens always did love to gather knowledge. She found something in some book in Dragonstone, some forgotten magic from before the Doom and… well…"
Adrian focused for a moment.
The wings suddenly beat out, knocking the rider back, and the vain and pompous little shit laid on the ground staring in shock as Adrian rose off the ground, the wings responding to his mental commands with the same smoothness as when he reached over to grab a drinking glass. They didn't need to beat like a hummingbird's wings, no no, the ebony wings' magic allowed him to rise in the air without such movement. He held himself aloft for several moments, spreading his arms a bit, looking upon the man that had tried to bring him down. He shifted and rocketed forward, curling the wings around him as he corkscrewed over Hurmin and Brice's heads and under the archway; the two were used to this by now, as Adrian had been practicing for weeks with the wings so that flight was as natural as walking for him. He rose up into the high main chamber, shutting his eyes and feeling the wind and the sun from the opening dance along his weathered face before he went into a dive, pulling up at the last moment and hovering before the rider who was now staring at him in awe.
"Still think this was folly?" Adrian asked mockingly. "Imagine what could be learned from these things."
"I… I… yes, yes I see that now," the rider said, his earlier commanding tone gone and replaced with wonder. "We… we will need to report this to Lord Tywin at once. This changes everything."
"It does, doesn't it?" Adrian asked, landing. The wings closed and though he felt the weight of them on his back he could walk around well enough while wearing them. Dragonbone was already known for being lighter than most metals while keeping the strength of them but the runes and enchantments that had been woven into the wings made them feel as if Adrian were merely carrying a filled sack on his shoulders. They balanced perfectly and didn't restrict his movement in the slightest. It was only when he had to take them off that they became a bit cumbersome and that was because the spells that allowed for flight only responded to physical contact; once broken the magic was lost.
"I know the Hand will be most interested in what you have found."
"I'm sure he would be," Adrian said. "Just like I'm sure that once we arrive in King's Landing the wings will be taken from me to be studied. Duplicate the power, right?"
"Of course," the other man said quickly.
Adrian walked over to him and patting him on the shoulder. "And I am sure that the Tyrells will want a say. I bet Mace will even want to send one of his sons to personally look through these caves, to find out if there is anything else of value in here."
"Naturally," the rider stated as Adrian led him away from the archway and towards the bridge they had crossed to get to the chamber.
"And while all that is going on I'll be sent back home." He chuckled. "Why, I bet by the time I get there everyone will have completely forgotten I found all this! This will be the discovery of Lord Tywin and Grand Maester Pycelle, along with whichever of Mace Tyrell's sons he wishes to give more glory to." He gripped the rider's shoulder, his fingers like talons. "People will remember their names for this discovery… while I will be expected to go back and continue watching the bones of jumped-up servants who now think themselves kings." Adrian considered the rider for a moment. "Maybe even you'll get the credit! Especially if something were to happen to me on the way back to King's Landing. After all… it is wartime and travel is so dangerous. I could be asleep and some arrogant little messenger could slit my throat before I'd even wake up. Take all the glory for himself." The rider trembled in his grasp and Adrian knew that was exactly what was going to happen. He gave the rider a sudden jerk, the man wavering, but Adrian pulled him back. "Oh! Careful there!" He chuckled and the other man nervously laughed. "Though… " he paused, nodding towards the darkness below, "I did say the fall wouldn't kill you, didn't I?"
He smiled and gave the man a hard shove, savoring the look of terror on the bastard's face as he toppled over the edge and fell into the darkness. Adrian heard within a moment the man's body hit the stone below and waited… then heard the cries of pain.
"Terrible way to go… wandering in the dark." He shook his head and walked back to the others.
"That is going to make it hard to work," Phineas said as the rider began to cry out for help.
"Don't worry about it, we aren't staying here anyway," Adrian said simply. Brice shrugged and walked over to begin dismantling their camp. Hurmin pursed his lips. "You got a problem?"
"With dooming that prick? No. But I'd like to know what we do next. We taking this to King's Landing to show the Hand ourselves?"
Adrian looked up, making a show of considering that, before he rose up in the air, flaring his wings out. "No… I think we're keeping it."
Authors Notes: Ladies and Gentlemen… welcome to Book 3!
One of the most requested characters after I confirmed Cap was coming and revealed Bruce has been Spider-Man. Even after I name dropped Petyr Parker people have been asking if I would be including Spider-Man in this series. With this chapter I reveal 100% that yes… Homecoming will be one of the storylines I am adapting for A Shield of Man.
Probably one of the funnest things with this chapter was designed Adrian of The Tombs' backstory. And it all came about because of the name. What are the Tombs? Well, we know what Tombs are but what are The Tombs. And as I began thinking about Adrian I realized that with him I would be able to create a character I've been wanting to create for a while: someone whose problem isn't because of the Lannisters but another family. The Tyrells, in this case.
The Tyrells are let off the hook WAY too much with the fandom. People treat them, especially the women, as what they wish the Starks would be like. That they are heroes but smart heroes. And I get that. I think the fact that I actually enjoy writing Tywin a TON should be proof that I love cunning characters who aren't always on the side of right. "The Devil gets the best dance numbers" as Sir Ian McKellan once rightfully said. And I also get pairing Sansa with Maergery. But… Maergery and Olena dumped Sansa in a hot minute the moment she was married to Tyrion. We don't get scenes of them comforting her, of them telling her "We have a plan, don't worry, we'll protect you".
She's no longer of use so who cares?
Hell, Olena sets Sansa up for Joffrey's murder. They had no idea Tyrion would be made cup bearer… but they could easily point to her necklace as containing the poison.
My point is that the Tyrells aren't the shining heroes some people make them out to be so I wanted to develop a character that would utterly HATE them. Because it gets old and boring to have the Lannisters be the bad guys. For Adrian it is the Tyrells and its actually refreshing to have someone who doesn't see the Lannisters as the problem nor truly his allies.. they are just the ones in power so okay, neat.
Onto other information. The Line the rider gives (and yeah, I purposely never gave him a name… Adrian doesn't care who he was) about thinking it was a bandit camp was lifted from the novel Jurassic Park.
Adrian's quest to rid himself of the family legacy serves two parts: to show his drive and desire for more… and to show he is a smart and skilled man with a wide set of talents. He might have started off the son of a minor lord of a minor house, but he has the training kings don't get. But fate is cruel, isn't it? Fate… and the high born.
And finally the wings. It would have been real easy to just make them dragonbone+sunstone=flying wings but that makes sunstones the go-to for anything I need. I wanted to dive deeper into the mythos…
…and speaking of that isn't it so nice of George to include a Vulture King for me?
Next time we move across the Narrow Sea and visit with Dany.