KINGS LANDING, THE RED KEEP
The recent meetings of the small council after Tywin Lannister had fled to the West had been increasingly fraught, tempestuous and outright mercurial due to the rage of the new King which had now become unmanageable. Upon hearing the words uttered by Quentyn Martell, Robert Baratheon had been so incensed that in the words of Grand Maester Pycelle, it was a miracle that his heart had not burst due to his uncontrolled rage and anger.
The King was a man of contradictions. He was at times gregarious, charming and could absolutely put at ease any man with a smile and laugh and feast with them at the same moment. And yet, at the same time, he was also capable of bone-chilling cruelty and apathy, and his rage and hatred towards those he deemed his enemies was becoming legendary. His behaviour towards the loyalists of House Targaryen and the dead family of Rhaegar was testament to the fact. All in all, slowly put, his behaviour was beginning to erode all the goodwill that the Rebellion had gained from ousting Aerys from the small folk, and it was beginning to worry the members of the Small Council.
It was increasingly becoming clear to Hoster Tully who had remained in the capital, that the real underlying reason for Robert's behaviour was simply put, nothing but envy and spite. Robert was at the heart of his mind, a very competitive and jealous man, who could not bear to see another prove himself better in a field that he considered himself to be a master of. During the rebellion against House Targaryen, Robert's battles against the Royalist Armies had won him worldwide acclaim, and he had revelled in the praises. But now, his star had dimmed as another had begun to blaze in the South, with the ferocity of the Sun itself, which had dimmed Robert's glowing star, and the new King had not liked that all. For someone who believed himself to be the best military mind in Westeros, the fact that there existed another who could steal that title from him had become a thorn in his heart.
Robert now lusted for battle. Above all else, he wished to prove that he and not the Martell Prince was the greatest military mind in Westeros, and nothing, not even death could dissuade him from that path.
Sighing, Hoster entered the chambers and found that majority of the members had already assembled. Pycelle, Varys, Greatjon Umber and the newest addition, Stannis Baratheon. The arrival of Stannis and Renly Baratheon had somewhat tempered Roberts' mood as meeting with his only family had calmed him somewhat. However, the effects of starvation while living in a year long siege had taken its toll on the King's brothers. Stannis had lost a lot of weight, and had become gaunt, but his eyes had gained a new cold edge to them. And his mind was sharp, far sharper than any had thought it possible.
As Hoster entered, everyone gave him a curt nod, and waited for the King to arrive in silence. Ten minutes later, Robert arrived and giving a brisk nod to all took his seat at the head of the table.
"Well, let us begin," Robert commanded curtly, and looked at Varys who stood up and gave a short bow. "Your Grace, my little birds have sung to me a great deal of what has happened in Oldtown and I shall now report the same to the small council," the eunuch began as everyone looked at the Spider with a keen gaze.
"It is now known that on the eve of the day when Prince Quentyn intended to crown himself, the envoy of the Iron Bank forcibly demanded an audience with the Prince. There the envoy demanded an immediate payment for the debts that is owed to the Iron Bank, the request which Lord Hand here very cleverly passed on to the Rebels," Varys spoke out even as he gave a nod to Hoster, who acknowledged it.
"And, how did the boy respond?" Robert asked gruffly, even as everyone at the table leaned forward to answer.
"I believe his exact words were 'You need to go to Kings Landing and claim it from Robert Baratheon, for he sits on the Iron Throne. Just because the oaf and his predecessors took a loan and apportioned the debt to us does not mean we are bound to honour it'", Varys concluded, while the faces of everyone on the table reddened with anger.
Robert pounded his fist on the table with a meaty thump. "Insolent motherfucker! Once I get my hands on him, I will break the whelp like a twig!" the King growled, while others remained stony faced.
"And how did the envoy of the Iron Bank respond?" Hoster asked with a grim tone, while Varys simpered as was his wont.
"The envoy was most displeased and threatened the Prince directly. He said that one does not make an enemy of the Bank, and if a King or Prince defaults on his debt, then new Princes will appear who will honour those debts," the eunuch spoke softly, but his words rang loudly in the ears of everyone present.
"They actually dared to say those words in open court?" Stannis asked with an incredulous look upon his face. He was not the only one. As used to Essosi arrogance as they all were, even they who considered themselves the enemies of the Southern Alliance found themselves shocked at the temerity of the Iron Bank and the way in which it had dared to threaten a King in his own castle.
"Indeed, and it was by the hands of the young prince that they were spared a grisly death on the spot for such a breath-taking breach of decorum," Varys continued, while everyone considered the words.
"And how did Quentyn Martell respond?" Hoster asked with his nerves taut with apprehension.
"The Prince rejected the threats outright and implied that Braavosi do not know how to deal with King's simply because they have no King, and implied that perhaps it was finally time for Braavos to have a King of its own," Varys replied in almost a whisper, but the words were nothing short of explosive to all the others.
"He … He actually dared to …," Hoster wheezed and began to cough, and waved away Pycelle who made to help him even as he collected himself.
"Indeed, My Lord. He went so far as to say that with a single word from him, a hundred men would sail to Braavos and kill every person in the Iron Bank including its keyholders, and that was but the least he could do. His exact words were that the Braavosi were mere coin counters who had overestimated their power, and even all their wealth combined would not grant them a quarter of his might. He then declared all debts to the Iron Bank cancelled and threw the envoy out of his castle," Varys finished, while others considered the import of all that they had listened.
"He has balls, I will give him that much at least," Robert grunted, while Stannis nodded in agreement.
"But it is what happened next that bears greater scrutiny, Your Grace," Varys became more sober and serious as he looked at everyone. "You all have heard of what has happened, but allow me to now grant you a clearer picture of what occurred as I have managed to learn through my little birds," the eunuch looked at everyone and after receiving their assent continued to speak.
"On the morning of the coronation, the Prince abruptly declared that there would be no coronation that day, and instead, he ordered Lord Randyll Tarly to take a few hundred men and assault the Starry Sept, and to take all the Septon's and Septa's inside, along with the Most Devout as prisoners," Varys shook his head, while everyone listened carefully.
"After much protests from everyone, he reluctantly revealed that he gave this order because he was certain that the Septon's, Septa's and others in the Starry Sept had already been killed by Faceless Men, and he would have faced death had he gone there for coronation. It is well known that the Faceless men tend to kill those who have defied the Iron Bank when they are celebrating their triumph, and this coronation was such an occasion. Two hours later, apparently, he was proven right when Lord Tarly returned and confirmed his words. The Faceless men it seemed had infiltrated the Starry Sept, and after a considerable battle, Lord Tarly's forces secured the Starry Sept, albeit with severe losses."
"How severe are we talking about here and are these losses verified?" Stannis asked after a moment, to which Varys nodded.
"It seems there were ten faceless men in the Starry Sept, and before they were all killed, they managed to take down at least ninety soldiers. My little birds personally saw at least a hundred bodies being brought out of the Starry Sept," Varys confirmed while the members of the council looked at him in shock.
"They did it … they really dared to do it," Hoster whispered weakly even as he sank back in his chair, before exploding in a towering rage, "Why the hell did those greedy Essosi cocksuckers choose now of all times to do this? Why?" he roared in anger and banged his fist on the table, while the others at the table were taken aback by the unnatural display of anger from the Lord of the Riverlands.
"Hoster?" Robert asked in a somewhat uncertain tone, but he was ignored as Hoster rounded upon Varys with an almost maniacal gleam in his eyes. "Varys, how did the boy respond to the aftermath? Tell me everything," he almost roared in a rather desperate tone, to which Varys sighed.
"Prince Quentyn immediately ordered the arrest of every Essosi in the city, and then he had the envoy of the Iron Bank and the First Sword of Braavos publicly beheaded in the town square of Oldtown after reading out their crimes and accusing them of being complicit in the crime," Varys replied with a trembling town as half the members of the council reeled in shock at the revelation.
"He what?" Robert asked in a rather subdued tone as even he too was taken aback at what he heard.
"Prince Quentyn had the envoy of the Iron Bank and the First Sword of Braavos publicly executed, and then decreed a blanket ban on all trade with Braavos throughout the Reach and Dorne. Dealing with the Iron Bank is now a crime punishable by death, as the prince has decreed that not a single copper is to go to the coffers of the Iron Bank from his kingdom. He then had the heads of the envoy, the first sword as well as those ten faceless men sent to Braavos, where they were publicly paraded in the streets of Braavos before the guards of the Sealord could act. The news has spread like wildfire throughout the entirety of all Essos! The Sealord and his council are still debating behind closed doors, as to what steps they ought to take, Your Grace," Varys concluded his report and sat down, feeling rather put out.
"We are done for! The war is lost!" Hoster Tully moaned even as he sat on his chair with despair clouding his face.
All the members of the council sans Pycelle turned towards him in shock, while the old Grand Maester just shook his head in defeat.
"Hoster! What the fuck are you talking about?" Robert asked his hand incredulously, while everyone turned to look at him in shock.
"With this attack on the faith, we will be lucky if the faith militant does not reconstitute for launching a crusade on Braavos!" Hoster replied with gritted teeth even as an eerie silence befell the room.
Hoster stood up and began to pace throughout the room like a wounded bull taking deep breaths.
"With this attack on the Starry Sept, the Martell Boy has gained the allegiance of the faith as well as all the small folk in Westeros. As word of this spreads, and spread it will, there will be a great outcry throughout Westeros for revenge and to attack Braavos as a result. Any lord who says no risks being lynched alive by his own people! At this point, the people no longer care about who sits on the Iron Throne! All they care is that the faith has been attacked and they will want revenge, regardless of reason, regardless of allegiances, or regardless of cost. At this point, if we persist in fighting with the Reach and Dorne, we run the risk of mutiny among our own people! The boy is now seen as the one who defended the faith from the Essosi scum! To attack him at this point is literal suicide, not just political. And all of us, will be forced to stop trading with Braavos as well. If the small folk find that we are still trading with those who attacked the Starry Sept, our own guards will slit our throats whilst we sleep! And if that little turd from Dorne claims that we are taking the help of the Essosi scum even if we are not, he will not even need to lift a finger to defeat us! Our own people will bind us in chains and hand us over to him!" Hoster spoke out in anguish as a gloomy atmosphere settled in the room.
Robert's face blackened in rage, as he stood up and began to pace around the room, while everyone prepared for another outburst.
Instead, after a minute's worth of pacing around, Robert stopped and turned towards Hoster and asked quietly, "Is there no other way?"
Hoster shook his head despondently. "I know this is not what you want to hear. But we cannot afford any missteps right now. The Essosi scum have forced our hand. If we persist on waging war with the rebels, we risk our own people rebelling against us. The faith will be inflamed to a degree never seen in history. We must ensure above all that the faith militant does not reform. And this time, there is no Black Dread or Maegor the Cruel to put them down again," Hoster advised with a pained look on his face, while Pycelle and Varys nodded in agreement. Stannis and Umber looked on ambivalently.
"So, what is our next move?" Robert asked after taking a deep breath, while Hoster nodded in agreement, glad that Robert was not that daft to ignore so great a threat.
"Issue a proclamation denouncing the act of the Essosi scum. Then enact the same bans as the rebels have done on Braavos. Finally, send an emissary to Oldtown to declare a truce. Accept the secession of the Reach and Dorne. Pull back our armies, rebuild, consolidate our strength again, and in ten years we can launch a war again to bring the rebels to heel, but for now, you must yield lest you be forced to do so," Hoster spoke out rapidly, while the mood in the council turned bitter.
"I …" Robert began when the ground began to rumble uncontrollably beneath their feet. A moment later, there was a blazing flash of green light all around them, and they felt nothing any more.
The destruction of Kings Landing was the greatest turning point in Westerosi history for the last thousand years. Ever since the conqueror had built this city as a monument to his glory, the city had stood as a beacon of power and prestige. Of an age of conquest and its aftermath. As the capital of a newly unified Westeros it had held a unique place in the minds of every single being on the continent.
To an ordinary peasant, it was the seat of the king, of the most prosperous city in the continent and a place where a man could make something of himself. To the nobles of Westeros, it was the seat of power and the place from where the fate of Westeros was dictated for more than three centuries.
As such, the day of its destruction was a day that no living soul would dare forget. It was known to all that Aerys Targaryen 'The Mad King' was fond of wildfire, but what was not known was that he had stashed hundreds of barrels of the potent brew across the various strongpoints of the city. Beneath the Red Keep, the Dragonpit, the Sept of Baelor, beneath all the main gates of the City, in locations like the street of silk and street of steel, and around 20 more such places of import. Salvaged records from the ruins of the city indicate that the mad king had stashed more than 3,000 barrels of wildfire across the city.
At the time, the mad king it seemed intended to destroy the city along with himself and his enemies, if they dared to breach the city, but Tywin Lannister's treachery put that to a stop. As Jaime Lannister had killed the king on his father's orders along with all his pet alchemists, no one knew of the death trap that laid beneath their feet. And since Jaime Lannister himself perished a few weeks later, it is unknown if the treacherous Kingsguard knew of this trap. Most agree that he did not, as any sane man would have revealed it at the moment they learnt of it, and Jaime Lannister could and would have been absolved of the crime of Kingslaying if he had done so.
However, the threat remained unknown to the misfortune of all. On the day that Kings Landing was destroyed, there was so loud a sound that it was heard as far as the Great Wall in the North, and the very Earth itself shook from the tip of Dorne to the Neck of the North. Many people in the vicinity of the city in the Crownlands and Duskendale were permanently deafened due to proximity to the noise. At the very moment of destruction, there rose a great pillar of green fire 'at least as tall as the wall' as a huntsman in the Kingswood who witnessed the event described it. After the pillar subsided, a great cloud of green smoke oddly shaped like a mushroom of all things was observed forming over the city and reaching tall into the skies, and being visible from places as far as Riverrun, Casterly Rock, Storms End, Highgarden and even Oldtown.
There were many mudslides and minor floods because of the act due to the event of earth-shaking quakes that occurred, which wiped out more than a dozen hamlets and settlements in the Riverlands as well the Crownlands.
At the time of its destruction, the city of Kings Landing housed half a million people. Not a single soul within the walls of the city survived the event. King Robert Baratheon, his brothers Stannis and Renly, and his entire court simply vanished in a blaze of green fire never to be seen again. Most of the armies of Stormlands, Riverlands and even the Northern Armies perished in the inferno.
Of the city itself, nothing remained except a deep hole leading to the middle of the bedrock, which was rapidly filled by the rushing seawater of Blackwater Bay. Only a few patches of land and some ruined buildings remained above water while the rest of the city submerged to an ignominious doom.
In the aftermath of the devastation, named forever by the people of Westeros as 'The Doom of Kings Landing', the situation in the Crownlands descended into absolute anarchy and an orgy of violence that had to be seen to be believed. As Robert Baratheon had ravaged the ruling houses of the Crownlands Nobility for daring to side with House Targaryen, the surviving houses and lands were full of people seething with hatred and discontent towards the new king and his followers. With Kings Landing destroyed and the threat of Robert gone, they fell upon the survivors from the Armies of the Rebellion who had escaped the doom with a vengeance unlike any other. Of the nearly 60,000 strong army which was present in and out of Kings Landing, less than 7,000 men had survived the cataclysm.
Broken, desperate and shell-shocked at what had happened, these men were suddenly set upon by the survivors of Robert's purge in the Crownlands with a vengeance, and as such they began a hasty retreat into the Riverlands as soon as possible. It was unwise for them stay in the Crownlands where every man, woman and child wanted them dead.
The Great houses of Westeros on the other hand had not yet recovered from the shock of what happened, when there occurred another event of such import that it shook not only Westeros but the entire world to its core.
Casterly Rock was invaded and taken, and every member of House Lannister was put to the sword. Man, woman and child alike. The ordinary citizenry of Lannisport were captured and sold as slaves to the slavers of Slaver's bay and Volantis. And the man who did this dastardly deed, also claimed the credit for destroying Kings Landing. And it was the identity of this man which so shook the world to its core.
Rhaegar Targaryen was alive and he indeed sent a letter claiming credit for all his deeds to every Great House and warned that those who would betray House Targaryen would perish as they had in the 'Second Field of Fire' as he put it. The fact that Rhaegar Targaryen was still alive, and had allied with the Ironborn and Slavers bay of all people was unfathomable to nobility and peasantry alike. Only the disturbing accounts told by the survivors of the purge of Lannisport made the true depravity of the Silver Prince known in horrifying detail to all. That the survivors of Lannisport were being sent off as slaves dismayed everyone in Westeros.
The fact that Rhaegar had an army of 150,000 men comprised of Ironborn, the armies of Slaver's bay and Volantis, the Golden Company and other such forces turned that sheer disbelief into despair. The fact that House Targaryen had made peace with the Blackfyre's and brought them back as a cadet branch of House Targaryen was akin to rubbing salt into the raw wounds of those who remembered fighting in the previous Blackfyre rebellions a mere generation ago. And lastly, when he claimed that he had burned Kings Landing to ashes to punish the treacherous peasants who crowned the man who killed his family, it spread a panic among the small folk like never before, and most of the peasantry from the Crownlands tried to flee, either to the Reach or the Riverlands.
Suddenly, the thoughts of everyone in Westeros turned towards the two men who they hoped could bring this evil dragon to heel. I am speaking of course, about Quentyn Martell and Eddard Stark. The events which unfolded after the destruction of Kings Landing would culminate near Harrenhall, the place where everything began and where everything would end. It was at Harrenhall, where the greatest battle in the history of Westeros, 'The Battle of the Five Armies' as it would be called would take place. And it was the aftermath of this battle, that brought forth the new era in which we all live. The Age of the Conqueror was over, and The Age of Warring Kingdoms had begun.
- From Grand Maester Marwyn,
The Doom of United Westeros,
Written in the fourth year of the Age of Warring Kingdoms,