Aegon looked skyward and cursed the gods for the situation he was facing. When he started this campaign, he was confident that he'd be marching into King's Landing victorious with his aunt by his side. His early victory at Storm's End and the routing of Lord Tarly's forces only spurred him to think that this war would be won before the end of the year.
'How foolish I was to think that?' he thought, looking grimly at the pyre burning away the men of the Golden Company.
His mistake was thinking Randyll Tarly would bend the knee after routing the man's army. He had chased the Lord of Hornhill all the way to Summerhall. The plan was for his Dornish allies to sweep in from the south and trap Tarly between their two armies. !t was a grand plan and Aegon had looked forward to a crushing victory. However, the gods had other plans in store for him and the Golden Company.
Not only did Lord Tarly manage to regroup with the forces in Summerhall, the man instead of digging in at the castle decided to spread out his men into small groups all across the countryside. While Aegon blindly marched out of Storm's End assured of victory, Randyll Tarly was laying a trap for them by using small pockets of men to attack their supply lines, dig pits which immobilized their elephants and horses alike and set up ambushes. The Golden Company has lost more men in this hit-and-run tactics Lord Tarly was using compared to the earlier battles.
"Our resources are dwindling. We have spent too much time hunting Tarly and his band of brigands." said Jon.
Aegon didn't disagree but a series of misfortunes struck them crippling their ability to march into King's Landing. He'd have been all for it to march his army against the capital but the news coming from King's Landing was not at all favourable. Not only was his aunt attacking the capital there were rumours of another dragon rider. To make matters worse, Lys had stopped supplying the Golden Company and their elephants were dying all thanks to the worsening weather.
"The Stormlords are helping Tarly. I know it."
Aegon looked at his Hand and held back a sigh. Jon had been frothing with rage once they learned Daenerys was not trying to help them but going after the throne herself. While they were stuck in the Stormlands in a war that was turning into a quagmire his aunt was making tremendous gains against the Lannisters. Their inability to properly pacify the Stormlands had even blunted their invasion into the Reach. The Marcher lords have managed to stand their ground despite the overwhelming advantage enjoyed by the Dornish army.
"We should stop fighting Tarly. It is a lost cause. We should join the Dornish army and help them push into the Reach." Rolly suggested.
"Join the Dornish!" Jon scoffed. "If it wasn't for them we would've already won this war months ago."
For once, Aegon was forced to agree with Jon's observation about his mother's family. His cousins, the Sand Snakes, have indulged in terrorizing the Marcher lords instead of properly fighting the war. They've also somehow lost command of the Dornish forces fighting the war. The details were sketchy but many of the Dornish lords were in open rebellion for some reason chief among them were the Daynes and Yornwoods.
Still, he was half Martell. He felt it was his duty to defend his mother's house no matter his personal opinions.
"We don't know what has transpired in Dorne. Perhaps, the Lannisters somehow influenced these rebel lords. With ravens not properly functioning I'm afraid we might never know the real cause anytime soon." said Aegon.
"I know the Martells better than anyone your grace. Their rule in Dorne has not been challenged by any Dornish houses in centuries. I suspect Prince Doran is purposefully denying us the needed troops and resources." Jon accused, his pale blue eyes darkening in anger.
"Why would his grace's uncle deny aid though?" asked Rolly.
"Because a Dornishman has no honour. Blood ties and oaths mean little to them. They prefer to run dishonourable schemes and even use unscrupulous methods to get what they want at any cost."
"You suspect my uncle wants something from me?" Aegon frowned.
"I suspect Prince Doran is holding back his forces to show that his cooperation is not without a cost."
Aegon looked at Jon perplexed.
"What could my uncle possibly want that he is willing to sabotage the campaign?"
"I do not know your grace. But I suspect the man wants his daughter to become your queen and a few Small Council seats for his fellow Dornishmen." said Jon with gritted teeth.
A horn blew in their camp gaining their attention.
"Now what?" Rolly groaned.
"Riders from the north your grace. Maybe Harry Strickland succeeded in routing Tarly." Jon said hopefully.
Aegon doubted that. These last few months of campaign had truly sapped him of any hopes left. He knew better than to hope for any positive outcome in this war. Not a moment later he was proven right as Harry Strickland dashed Jon's hopes.
"We were ambushed. We lost the last elephant to a trap of caltrops. The only good thing is we managed to chase the fuckers away further north. We managed to secure our supplies and momentarily managed to restore a safe path to Storm's End."
"For how long?" Aegon muttered.
"That remains to be seen. No doubt, Tarly's men will ride out of their hiding spot after they lick their wounds." said Harry.
"This is bad. The war is not going as we hoped." Jon muttered dejectedly.
"I wouldn't write it off Connington. There is good news."
"There is?" Aegon asked with wide eyes looking at the Captain Commander of the Golden Company.
"There is your grace. We had misplaced half our men thanks to the storm scattering our fleet but we have made an unusual ally in the Stepstones willing to lend us a hand. The remaining knights and archers of the Golden Company have landed on the shores of Stormlands and are marching towards us as we speak."
Aegon was quite happy to hear that. They needed more men for their planned invasion into the Reach with Dorne's refusal to cooperate.
"These new allies we have… who're they?" Jon asked, frowning suspiciously at the Captain Commander.
"I do not know. Send those ravens to Chain at Mistwood and find out." said Harry Strickland shrugging his shoulders.
"Good luck trying that." Rolly scoffed.
Jon eyed Rolly heatedly but did not deny the accusation. "Either the Maesters are refusing to cooperate with us or something has happened to the ravens."
"That's strange." Harry Strickland muttered, looking thoughtful for a moment before shaking his head. "Either way, I know why our Dornish allies are not being as helpful as we thought."
"Why?" Aegon asked promptly.
"Dorne is in an uproar over their slain Prince Quentyn Martell and Cletus Yornwood. They say Daenerys Targaryen is responsible. The Yornwoods have withdrawn their support as do many other Dornish houses. The rest of the details are sketchy. Some rumours claim there is a serious tussle going on in Sunspear between Prince Doran and Princess Arianne."
Aegon and Jon exchanged a look at this revelation.
"We'll know more when the rest of the army reaches us. We must regroup at Summerhall and make preparations for a large offence into the Reach." Commander Strickland suggested.
Tyrion hesitated as he reached the door leading down to the Black Cells. From the moment the Red Keep fell, he had been petitioning the Queen to grant him an hour to speak with Jaime. Daenerys had granted him the request but Prince Daeron decreed it so that the prisoners in the Black Cells were sentenced to solitary confinement until the court holds a trial. He knew that was just an excuse cooked up by the prince to assert his control over the Red Keep. The castle was overwhelmingly getting filled with supporters of Prince Daeron and the Queen remained wilfully ignorant or wholly unconcerned about the shifting ground reality. To make matters worse the Prince had been seen sending overtures to the lords of Crackclaw Point that have so far remained true to the Queen.
He knew Varys was keeping a close eye on those meetings and they only had little information so far. Not that he thinks it matters anymore. The Queen had agreed to an accord that'd see the last Targaryens unite their claims through marriage. It was all but certain that the reign of Daeron the Third would officially start once the coronation as well as the marriage to Daenerys occur.
Perhaps it was the settling of the succession or even the capture of his nephew Tommen that changed Prince Daeron's mind. Either way, he was approached by Ser Barristan bearing the news that he was allowed to visit Jaime. At first, he was a little surprised and just thanked the knight before confining himself to his room. For two days, he drank himself to a stupor in his room barricading himself from everyone else in the castle. This was the third day and he was ready to meet his elder sibling.
Letting out a deep breath he gathered himself before nodding at the guard. The door was unlocked and pushed open. He trekked down the familiar set of stairs to the Black Cells where he was imprisoned a few years back. Unlike before, there were guards posted near the cells with some candles burning warding off the darkness in the prison.
'Smart of Prince Daeron. I'm living proof that the famed Black Cells are not as secure as Maegor Targaryen envisioned.' Tyrion thought.
He found a small stool set a few paces away facing a prison cell. He looked in askance at the guard accompanying him.
"His grace clearly ordered us to keep you away at an arm's distance from the cell. " the guard said sharply before banging the cell bars. "Lannister, you have a visitor."
Without protest, Tyrion sat on the stool and looked into the dark cell. He could see a small movement in the darkest corner of the cell and the faint sound of rattling chains.
"You came, huh?"
Tyrion heard his brother whisper from inside the cell.
"I'd have come earlier but I wasn't granted permission from the Prince." said Tyrion.
"I see. I'd have assumed Daenerys Targaryen was giving the orders not Rhaegar's bastard." Jaime let out a throaty chuckle.
"I wouldn't call Prince Daeron a bastard if I were you." Tyrion warned.
"Why? I'll die either way. It's not likely that I'll be shown mercy for being a well-mannered prisoner." Jaime scoffed.
"Maybe. But there is Tommen to consider." said Tyrion, earning a long silence from Jaime.
"What about Tommen?" Jaime finally asked.
"He has been taken into custody. For now, Tommen remains well cared for but…" Tyrion trailed off.
"Tyrion, you cannot allow something to happen to Tommen." Jaime pleaded.
Tyrion could hear the desperation in his brother's voice but he was not moved.
"Tell me something, Jaime. Tysha, she was not a whore, was she?"
A long stretch of silence followed his question.
"Jaime, I need to know the truth. Did you lie to me about Tysha?"
"It does not matter…"
"It matters to me, Jaime. Tell me the truth." Tyrion demanded with gritted teeth.
"Yes." Jaime whispered in the darkness but Tyrion heard it loud and clear.
"Why?" he whispered.
Tyrion waited but Jaime didn't say a word. He already knew though. Lord Tywin sought to teach him a lesson and Tysha was made to suffer. His wife was declared a whore and had the Lannister men rape her. The most horrific act was he was also ordered to fuck her and he did, trusting the lies spun by Jaime. He hated his father and his brother for what happened. But most of all he hated himself for what he did that day.
"Daeron and Daenerys have taken flight on their dragons. When they return the coronation of Daeron will happen and after that, you'll be called to stand for a trial. I'll see you there Jaime." said Tyrion, sliding off the stool and taking to his feet.
"Tyrion, I'm sorry." Jaime said softly.
Tyrion paused for a moment before walking away from the Black Cells without looking back. He wanted to rage at his brother for what happened but he was equally guilty of Tysha's fate. Besides, he had already taken his revenge on Tywin Lannister. All that was left of his father was his legacy and that was already in jeopardy.
When he finally came out of the Black Cells Varys was waiting for him at the entrance. He disliked the look of pity being directed at him so he changed the subject.
"Have you figured out where Daeron and Daenerys went?" Tyrion asked, as they walked along the hallways of the Red Keep.
"Unfortunately, no. I know they have flown south according to some fishermen who saw the dragons crossing the Blackwater rush." said Varys, the frustration of not knowing could be clearly seen on his face. "I suspect Ser Barristan knows but the knight is tight-lipped in my presence. Perhaps, you might loosen his tongue."
Tyrion shook his head.
"If Ser Barristan has been ordered not to spill any details, he'll keep the secret till his last breath." said Tyrion, eyeing the former Master of Whispers out of the corner of his eyes.
'I suppose I'm not the only one afraid of what the future might hold.' Tyrion thought.
They never imagined the Queen would easily give ground when it comes to unifying the claims of Daeron with hers on the Iron Throne. Perhaps, the fault lies with them as advisors. They didn't see the trap being sprung on them using the Crownland lords as bait. They lost the major bargaining power because the city was not taken solely by the Queen's forces. If they had done so they could have forced Daeron to accept more terms in their favour.
"Did you know that House Velaryon has been asked to return all of the Dromonds that Cersei financed?" Varys suddenly asked.
"Truly?" Tyrion raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Yes. I'm told Ser Davos Seaworth has been granted overall command of the fleet by the orders of Prince Daeron."
"That's not going to be popular with the Velaryons." Tyrion commented.
"No, it's not. I also suspect the long hours of discussion between Prince Daeron and Ser Wylis Manderly was an indication of a possible Small Council seat for the Heir of White Harbour."
"Daeron is replacing the traditional allies of House Targaryen with the staunch supporters of House Stark." Tyrion observed.
"That was my thought as well." Varys nodded gravely. "We have to warn her grace before things get out of hand. It's getting out of hand. The Tyrells remain a prisoner inside Maegor's holdfast and soon her grace may find herself without any allies."
'I don't think she cares either way. She is too smitten by the rogue charm of Prince Daeron.' Tyrion thought, but he didn't dare say it aloud.
Asha was satisfied with making something of herself in the Stepstones. After the disaster that was her idea to ally herself with the Dragon Queen, she was floundering to regain her footing. The Ironborn that followed her were not going to keep following her if there was no clear goal on the horizon. The Ironborn that followed her clearly did not want to work under Euron. In some ways, they saw the disaster her uncle will undoubtedly bring to the shores of their home islands. But that doesn't mean all of them were willing to follow her no questions asked. She had proven her mettle at the sea but now she had to rise even beyond being just the captain of a ship. She needs to show true leadership that offers a stable future for the Ironborn. An alliance with the Dragon Queen would have offered her people a future in the Iron Islands. But that was not to be.
Her standing amongst her fellow Ironborn was on a knife's edge when she came into contact with the Golden Company. When she learned that a portion of the sellsword company was stranded on Stepstones saw an opportunity to regain her standing amongst the Ironborn. The Volantene fleet that was transporting them was in need of some repair and those sailors were too afraid to sail into Westeros because of the storm. Not to mention, the sailors were all rushing to return to Volantis once they learned Volantis was sacked by the Dragon Queen.
In this situation, she approached the stranded officers of the Golden Company with an offer. She offered her fleet to ferry their men to the Stormlands in return for their assistance in a small matter. With her fleets and the experienced fighting men of the Golden Company, it only took her a campaign of two months to establish her own fiefdom on the island of Grey Gallows. She toppled the local pirate lords and Lyseni pirates from the nearby islets and established her control over a chain of islands in the Stepstones. The loot alone from the pirates was enough to secure the loyalty of the Ironborn. The riches that awaited them in the future from plundering more ships from Dorne, Essos and the Summer Isles was going to be more than enough to keep the Ironborn sated.
Just as the Golden Company kept their word, she kept hers. Her ships were moored at Mistwood with the Golden Company unloading their men, weapons and horses.
"They'll be missed. It'll be difficult to hold on to our holdings without the steel of the Golden Company by our side." said Tristifer Botley.
"That's true. But we'll be whipping those lazy punks in the Grey Gallows into proper Ironmen. The size of our fleet has certainly increased and soon we'll have more slaves in our custody once we absorb those Lyseni crews prowling around in the sea." said Asha.
What she didn't tell was that she dearly hoped the Golden Company and this Aegon Targaryen end up somehow being a thorn in the side of her uncle. If Euron ends up getting beaten in the Reach more Ironborn would flood to her side. The Iron islands would be easy pickings for her as her uncle wastes ships and men fighting the Greenlanders while she grows in power at the Grey Gallows.
'It'd seem the Drowned God is favouring me once again.' she thought happily.
"Asha!" Theon screamed.
She turned sharply at her brother wondering what sort of lunacy was he now engaged in. But instead, she watched a dragon sweep down from the sky and breathe down flame right through the middle of her ship. There was an explosion of wood and screams of men. She was blown back from the explosion and her back struck hard against the rails of her ship. The pain that flared up on her back made her momentarily lose her vision. When she regained a semblance of a grip on her vision it was to see her fleet getting burned down by two large dragons.
"No." Asha groaned, climbing on her feet using the railing as a crutch. "My fleet!"
It was not just her fleet that was burning as another dragon was seen breathing down fire on the men of the Golden Company. All around her there were flames of red and yellow burning her ships and men. Black smoke bellowed out into the sky turning the former blue skies look like a distant dream. The smell of burnt flesh and men screaming as their flesh burned under dragonfire assaulted her senses. Her head spun as she saw several charred corpses floating in the sea. Her ship was groaning as it struggled to hold together despite getting burned by dragonfire.
Suddenly the cream-coloured dragon that was burning the men on the land turned its attention to her ships. She saw the dragon chase towards her and even saw it open its maw full of black dagger-like teeth. She screamed as bright golden flames descended down on her making her jump from her ship. Pain flared up on her back before darkness consumed her whole.
Daenerys grinned at her nephew as he levelled with her in the sky atop Rhaegal. Soon, Viserion also joined her on her other side earning a soft growl from Drogon.
"Easy Drogon." she shouted in High Valyrian rubbing his black scales.
Drogon seems to have developed a sort of rivalry with Rhaegal and Viserion for obeying another rider over her. Or maybe, it has something to do with the face-off that happened between the three dragons outside the city. In time, Drogon would learn to forget that little incident.
She had often dreamed of flying her dragons with her family. The only family she knew was her brother who was long dead at the hands of her former husband. Since then, she has been alone. But not anymore. Her future husband was with her among the clouds after laying waste to the Ironborn and the Golden Company.
It was just the start. Now, the Golden Company and their Blackfyre pretender were trapped inside Westeros as planned by her nephew. When this war concludes, there shall be no more Blackfyres and their allies to ever haunt House Targaryen.
"To King's Landing." Daeron shouted over the howling winds.
Daenerys nodded before a mischievous smirk crossed her lips.
"Let's see who lands first." she shouted back before urging Drogon into a dive.
She smiled when she saw Daeron take her up on the challenge. She was looking forward to reaching the city. Daeron's coronation as well as their wedding awaited them.