The large shadow cast by the dragon made it feel like he was a moment away from his death. The only consolation Yohn had was that he was not alone in feeling this terror. His fellow Vale lords were facing the same conundrum as the green dragon looked at them with its terrifying yellow eyes.
It also did not help the dragon would occasionally let out grunts and growls that made their souls shiver with fear. He could see some of the knights literally shaking inside their heavy armour. While they could pass it off as the northern cold everyone knew this particular cold came from fear.
It has been nearly two centuries since a dragon breathed in Westeros. And now, one was standing right on his line of sight, just three feet from him. He could not believe his eyes when the dragon landed nearby and it certainly did not help that the dragonrider made his old heart beat faster.
If the dragon hadn't unsettled him the uncanny resemblance of the dragonrider to the Last Dragon and Ned Stark certainly did. Yohn had ridden many sorties against the Last Dragon in many tourneys. It was in Harrenhall where he last faced Prince Rhaegar. Even though many years had flown by since then he'd not forget the face of the Dragon Prince that easily.
"You look like you have seen a ghost, Lord Royce."
He was startled when the Targaryen addressed him so casually as if they were not a moment away from war. The knights of the Vale had assembled on their back and the entire Vale army was now alert seeing a dragon landing on what was supposed to be a parlay.
"You look remarkably like a young Ned Stark but on second look you do share some similarities with prince Rhaegar."
"I suppose. I've chosen to shave my beard off seeing as there is no point in hiding who I am."
Yohn frowned at the lad. "This is not how parleys are conducted. This meeting was held under the white flag."
"I acknowledge that Lord Yohn. But, this is how we will be dealing with you. Your men so much as draw their weapons I will reduce you and your armies to ashes."
"You are willfully ignoring the sanctity of peace and rules of conflict." commented Lord Horton Redfort from his side.
"I know what I'm doing Lord Redfort. The question is, do you?"
Yohn didn't like the way Lyn Corbray wilted under the sharp stare from Daeron Targaryen.
"We had no part in Baelish's schemes. We were informed that the Vale army would fight the Boltons to rescue Lady Sansa." Yohn tried to reason.
"Rescue? You lot sold her out to those flaying piece of shit and now you claim you are here to save Lady Stark!" thundered Lord Glover, who then addressed Daeron Targaryen. "Your grace, give the order and we will break these scum on our knees."
"Peace, Lord Glover. I believe Lord Royce and the Vale lords have the good sense to bend the knee." said Daeron.
"Bend the knee? We fought to dethrone the Mad King. Do you expect us to bend the knee to a Targaryen?" Yohn protested.
"Yes, Lord Royce. You are expected to bend the knee and you will." said Daeron narrowing his eyes ever so slightly at Yohn. "What do you know of this place, my lord?"
The sudden question broke Yohn's focus on the matter at hand. "What does that have to do with…"
"This is the Neck or more interestingly the graveyard of Andals." said Daeron, brandishing his arms pointing at the vast swamplands around them. "Your ancestors lie underneath the soil which you stand upon. No invading force has ever crossed into proper North and unfortunately, you are an invading force whether you like it or not."
"But…" Yohn made to interrupt but he got cut off.
"Death or submission, my lord. You submit before me and swear oaths of fealty or I will turn your armies into ashes. Your men can join their ancestors after I burn you where you stand."
"This not honourable. We are under the banners of truce." Lord Horton made to protest but Yohn noted that didn't bother Daeron the slightest.
"Andals broke the guest rights and killed Ned Stark along with all his household in King's Landing. My cousins were brutalized in the Red Keep in Andal lands. The daughter of Vayon Poole was murdered by Andals." said Daeron, taking a threatening step forward that made Lord Horton take a step back. "Where were the honourable knights of the Vale?"
"My cousin and many of the lords of the North, Riverlands died under the guest rights of Andals. Where was the condemnation from the supposed honourable knights of the Vale?"
Yohn also took a step back when the green dragon growled at them terrifying him as well as Lyn Corbray and Lord Redfort.
"The rules of guest rights and peace has been violated for too long by the Andals. The Southerners have crushed the pillars that hold our society together. I intend to restore them but when we are living in a lawless land I will use brutal means to achieve victory over honourless backstabbers. There will be one law for everyone Lord Royce. When the Andals broke the laws of guest rights the First Men will no longer abide by those laws until the Andals that are responsible for those crimes are brought to justice. You will kneel or you will die. You may choose."
Yohn gulped at the terrifying visage of the dragon that looked eager to burn them to death. In the end, he was not the first to fall to his knees. Lord Horton took the knee followed by Ser Corbray. Only then did he kneel lest he would turn to ashes by dragonflames.
"No quarter my lord Royce. I will gove no quarter for my enemies."
Daeron was no idiot. He knew he was pushing very hard against the conventional norms of warfare with his actions. But, all his actions were carefully constructed and well thought out. Even before he took flight to the Riverlands atop Rhaegal he had planned out the Blood Feud. He had planned out in denying any form of peace to be negotiated with those he considered his enemies.
There was a simple explanation why he chose to do so. Power!
He understood power far better than anyone else in this world. Perhaps that was not true. Tywin Lannister also understood the intricacies of power.
Tywin had the right of it when he decided to wipe out House Stark. Leaving an enemy especially one that controlled the entirety of a vast kingdom to plot your demise was not a wise move. Joffrey's actions had ensured House Stark would seek vengeance against House Lannister. If not in Tywin's lifetime then it would happen in the future. Tywin had the option of ensuring his family's safety or he could foolishly negotiate peace if he had taken Robb and other Northerners as his prisoners.
Tywin took his chances on wiping out House Stark and leaving the ruling of the North to the Boltons. Those schemes might have worked if Tywin had succeeded.
This was the same dilemma that Daeron was facing presently. He could show magnanimity and forgive House Frey and Lannister. But, where would that leave him or his possible descendants in the future? Whether he liked it or not each and every member of House Lannister and Frey stand to lose someone in this war. Even if he mustered extreme discipline among his troops brutal acts against these two houses was inevitable. The entire North had suffered under the actions of House Frey. Vengeance will fall upon those cursed souls living in the Twins irrespective of their participation in the Red Wedding whether he liked it or not.
His allies were adamant in condemning the Freys to suffer. It also has to be noted, he has to make an example out of these two houses. Westeros has been at war for nearly three years and the resulting backlash was going to come soon. He intends to rule the kingdom and if he sits the Iron Throne, he'd be the one to deal with the aftermath of this expensive war. The last thing he'd need other than inheriting a war-ravaged continent was enemies to grow strong right under his nose.
Enemies he could dispatch easily in the chaps of this war.
The only way to minimize his future troubles was to show that he meant business. And for that to happen he has to make an example out of his worst enemies. House Lannister and Frey have conveniently positioned themselves to take the brunt of what he was going to dish out. Also, framing this war as a culture war was one of his brilliant ideas.
Oh, he was acutely aware of the consequences if he went too far with the Andals vs First Men agenda he was pushing. With the Faith Militant uprising, it was almost assured that he'd have to face the Faith of Seven in battle, in the in politics. The southern parts of Riverlands already have the Faith Militant presence. It was only a matter of time before he came to clash with those raving lunatics considering they hold power over Crownlands and the capital itself.
So, it was better to include the dismantling of the Faith Militant in his war aims. Daeron had already come out with his magical powers and he held no notion that the Faith would see him as anything but an abomination. Plus, he was not going to prostrate himself before people of the cloth. That was the mistake Aegon made and he was not going to repeat that mistake.
As far as goals went, the primary goal remained the same. The primary goal is to take the Iron Throne and use the power of the Throne to call all resources to face the Long Night. To that end, he needed the Vale and other southern kingdoms to follow his command.
Now that he has shown the stick to the lords of the Vale he has to give them a carrot.
To that effect, he made his move while the Lords of the Vale gave him oaths of fealty. Usually, exchanging the oaths of fealty was supposed to be a formal occasion but he was not in possession of the Iron Throne. He was not even under the roof of a sturdy castle. And just so, the oath of fealty was taken out in the cold air of the North. There was some irony considering this was how Torrhen Stark lost his crown to Aegon. Only this time, no one was losing their crown.
Lords Royce, Redfort, Belmore, Waxley, Tollett, Sunderland and many others took their oaths. Ser Morton Waynwood took the oath representing his mother Anya Waynwood. Ser Symond Templeton took the oath for the Knights of Ninestars. Then it was time for House Corbray represented by Ser Lyn Corbray.
"Ser Lyn, before you swear your oaths in place of your brother I offer you a position in my Kingsguard. House Corbray had fought for House Targaryen in the Rebellion. I do not forget loyalty Ser. I reward those who are loyal."
Of course, there were other reasons for his offer and he was pretty confident the knight would accept. He had a private word with the knight of Heart's Home before the swearing ceremony. He had pretty much used the information he wrung from Baelish to blackmail Ser Lyn to take the position as Kingsguard. All those trade deals in Gulltown, House Corbray's part in sleazing off the Arryns and Ser Lyn's own vices were very useful in ensuring his cooperation.
One of the major reasons Daeron wanted Ser Lyn in his Kingsguard was because the knight is a skilled swordsman and possessed a Valyrian Steel sword. When the Long Night comes knocking having a Valyrian Steel wielding Kingsguard by his side was bound to be advantageous. The other reason was that the knight is a straight-up cold-hearted killer. Daeron needed such men considering the war was only going to pick up the pace. He needs men that follow orders and are willing to get their hands dirty.
"I'll be honoured to be part of your Kingsguard, my King."
"Then swear your oaths in place of your brother. I shall personally induct you at a later date."
"My King, I also stand representing House Grafton in Lord Gerold Grafton's absence." said Ser Lyn.
"You may not swear oaths representing Lord Grafton. House Grafton was loyal to House Targaryen and I would receive him with honours. Lord Grafton is hereby offered the post of Master of Coin in my Small Council. I shall accept his oath of allegiance when he takes his office."
Daeron was more than aware that he was treading dangerous grounds by focusing solely on Targaryen loyalists alone. He was hardly done in extending rewards so to speak but he waited till Ser Lyn said his oaths.
"Sigorn bring the prisoner forward."
The leader of Thenns brought forward Baelish who promptly fell to his knees looking quite thin and haggard.
"Meet Petyr Baelish the architect of War of the Five Kings. He has admitted to planning out the war by poisoning Lord Jon Arryn on orders from Cersei Lannister." Daeron announced before the assembled lords of the Vale. "But, his crimes go far beyond that single instance isn't that right Petyr?"
Daeron flashed Petyr a vindictive smirk that promised a world of pain. And so, Petyr opened his mouth and from Petyr's mouth flowed out the admission of poisoning Jon Arryn. Of course, Daeron had ordered Petyr to admit to many falsehoods as well. Cersei Lannister had nothing to do with Jon Arryn's poisoning but placing blame on her seemed convenient. Nothing could be better than a common enemy. It also simplified the whole issue. Why trouble yourself with explaining Pycelle's role in the whole thing when he could just easily pin all the blame on the Lannisters. The lords of Westeros were simpletons. They need only a simple tale of betrayal.
Petyr then admitted that Sweet Robin is his son rather than Jon Arryn's.
Daeron was amused to note Lord Redfort had to physically restrain Lord Royce before the Lord of Runestone cut down Baelish. In truth, Sweet Robin was indeed Jon Arryn's son as far as he knew. After all, there is no sure way of knowing who fatheref that sickly brat. But, a succession crisis at the Eyrie suits him just fine. He didn't owe Jon Arryn anything so he felt no problem in denying the man's son his rightful inheritance.
Then the confessions went to the events that transpired in the capital that led to Ned Stark's imprisonment. There was no need for any revisions on that plot and Baelish did a good job of ensuring his demise by his confessions. The detailed plots the former Master of Coin spun in the capital was far grand and villainous that the Vale lords were literally cringing at Baelish's confessions.
When Baelish completed his full scope of involvement in the bloodshed unleashed on the continent there was an uneasy silence. Only the distant howls of early morning Northern winds remained in anyone's ears.
"Now, you are beginning to understand my concerns, Lord Royce. This is the depth to which one of the Vale lords have acted and I don't for a moment think Baelish acted without support. Many among your peers have connections to this swine."
He could see his comment shook many among the crowd.
"However, you all have sworn oaths of fealty to me. I am not pursuing those who are connected to Petyr Baelish on the memory of my uncle who saw Jon Arryn as a teacher and perhaps even a father figure." Daeron let out a tired sigh.
He hoped the lords of the Vale took this moment to truly reevaluate their position. More than anyone he knew there was no great conspiracy nor were there many willing collaborators to Baelish's plans. But, saying that there were would keep the Vale lords divided and for the moment that was to his advantage. "This alone has stayed my hands and I'd like for us to put this dark chapter of life behind us. So long as the lords of the Vale hold true to their oaths I shall hold to mine to protect and safeguard your way of life."
"Your grace, please accept our humble apologies. We knew not the kind of schemes this…this...traitor had in mind."
Daeron glanced at the red-faced Lord of Runestone with a growing sense of success and relief in his mind. And now, it was time to push his luck a little bit.
"You may not have known but you lived with this man. Your lord had him stay close to the Iron Throne and the kingdoms are now millions in debt to a foreign bank. You cannot shirk from the responsibility of this failure, my lords. You all decided to crown a whoremongering fool a king. The consequences of that act, you must shoulder." Daeron took a deep breath as he stared at the assembled lords of the Vale. If they were expecting punishment in the form of some tax increases or something they were dead wrong. He had no intention of demanding something like that when he was waging a war of conquest.
"The knights of the Vale will pay this debt of ignorance by delivering me the Seven Kingdoms. Whether you knew or not, your people have cost me my family from my mother's side and my father's side. You will settle that debt with me, my lords. You will repay that debt by supporting my claim to the Iron Throne over the corpses of Freys and Lannisters. If need be, over the corpses of all my enemies. And then we rebuild."
"Your grace." Lord Yohn Royce fell to his knee. "The Knights of the Vale will win you the Iron Throne."
The others followed soon taking to their knees before their rightful king.
"All hail King Daeron Targaryen! Long may he reign!"
"Long may he reign!"
They all choroused making Daeron grin.
Thick misty fog hung around Castle Black. It was no novelty for Edd to see snow and fog. He had long come to terms with his life at the Wall. The cold or the snow did not bother him as much as it did before.
But, today there was an uncanny chill in Castle Black. Perhaps it was just a feeling because of the particular event that unfolded not long ago.
When Jon had charged him to take control of Castle Black Edd had done so as there was little else he could do. He didn't really have the heart to ask Jon to stay with everything that has happened. Besides, in Edd's eyes, Jon's duties to the Night's Watch came to an end when the brothers of the Night's Watch stabbed his friend to death under the veil of darkness.
And now, his friend allegedly rode a dragon and was claiming to be the king of the Seven Kingdoms. Edd didn't know what to believe. He found the notion of his friend riding a dragon ludicrous. Although, if Jon could wake up after being stabbed to death he supposed riding a dragon was not much of a leap.
The cold winds howled in his ears and the soul-chilling growls of wights filled his ears. Wrapping the black cloak tightly around his body he stared fearfully at the wights tied inside the cage. The wooden cart on which the cage sat rattled as the wights tried to break free of their bindings. He found it extremely bothersome to see the corpses of his former brothers with blue eyes.
"You sure these cages will hold em?" asked Tormund.
The two of them watched as the cart was slowly pulled out of Castle Black by two horses. There were Free Folk men and Spearwives around the cart as escorts.
"It is the best iron cage the smiths could build. They won't break out so long as you don't fuck this up. And should they break out somehow…"
"I'll keep the flame going for all day. We will burn the fuckers." said Tormund gruffly.
"Tell Jon we need more men at the Wall. Days are getting shorter with less light. Nights are getting far more colder and filled with snowstorms. The enemy is approaching." said Edd, grimly looking at the piling snow.
"Ah! I almost forgot." Tormund began shouting out commands to some Free Folk men in Old Tongue. A few of those men began to unload small bags from a cart.
"What is this?" Edd asked curiously.
"A gift from the Mountain Clans." said Tormund with a grin.
As Edd opened a bag he picked up small arrowheads and spearheads made of black glass-like material.
"Dragonglass." Edd hummed appreciatively. He traced his fingers over the somewhat smooth surface of the spearheads.
"More will come. These things are hard to make." commented Tormund.
"We will need more. Far more than this to have a chance in the coming fight." said Edd looking at the many bags filled with Dragonglass weapons. After all, there were some hundred thousand wights to kill and they'd need every piece of Dragonglass they could possibly get to face the Night King and the Army of Wights.
With the next chapter, the events of 303 AC will come to a close. So, the next one will be the end of this book.
Do you guys want me to continue posting the events of 304 AC in this thread or shall I start another thread? Just PM me or take to Discord.
Discord link is in my Bio. So, if you want to engage in a productive conversation about the stories or anything in general, hop on.
Also, the edited version of this story is posted in Webnovel. The first 15 or so chapters are unedited versions. I think I changed them but as always I botched up somewhere and I don't know how much of them were edited. The Webnovel version is the better one.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.