The Uncloaking

The She-Wolf was no place for a she-wolf, at least not the four legged variety. The carrack was a large vessel, deep and broad, and from bow to stern, measured as long as any war galley. Still, Nymeria could run from quarterdeck to forecastle and back in a matter of seconds. Not that the dire wolf bothered, Arya thought. As the weather grew colder, Nymeria curled herself into a ball, covering her nose with her tail, sharing precious body heat with Ghost. Both wolves were welcome to rest in the cabins but preferred the fresh air of the quarterdeck.

Ghost was more comfortable in the cold and wind. The white wolf stayed alert, the red ruby eyes watching carefully over the Wintertown crew and the Little Birds. The boys and girls visited the quarterdeck often, bringing meals from the galley, carrying messages to the crew, standing watch at the helm, and helping with the sails and navigation. In the return, Jon repaid them with lessons - many quite unusual.

"Seven Hells, Snow. It is cold enough to freeze a monkey's balls. How much longer?" Sandor Clegane was wrapped up in heavy furs and thick wool. The Hound held a ten foot pole of ash. At the top, mounted on the shaft, there were three hollow brass cups, half spheres attached to a rotating metal vane.

"You are not in the right position. Chett, find the direction of the wind." Her brother said.

The boy's brown eyes glinted with excitement. Chett held a large reel with loops of white string wrapped around the cylinder. With his free hand, he threw up the diamond of thin crimson cloth anchored to an ironwood cross. The wind gusted and took the offering, and Chett rapidly released more and more string. The crowd of children gasped as the kite flew high in the sky, taller than the masts of the carrack.

The Hound thrust the pole up, standing perpendicular to the direction of the gusting wind. At the same moment, Jon turned over a small hourglass, the brown sand draining through the neck. One brass cup was painted red, and the Wintertown boys counted the movements as the device whirled in the strong wind.

"Thirty three revolutions, my Lord!" Gerry shouted as the last grain settled on.

"Are we done yet?" Sandor gritted his teeth.

"For today. We will repeat this tomorrow and the days to come." Jon said. "Chett, write down that the wind blows from East North East."

"Can we fly the kite for a bit longer, maester?" The Winter Town boy pleaded.

"Of course. We are due for a good supper after a long day of work. Have someone bring food and drink to the quarterdeck. Something warm for Clegane." Jon replied kindly.

Sailors carried cauldrons of freshly cooked stew from the mess. Arya sniffed the boiled, salted beef, onions, potatoes and plums simmered in beer and broth. There were no plates or forks and the meal would be eaten with hard biscuits and bread. Clegane ignored the food, and made straight for a smaller pot - mulled spiced wine with cloves, cinnamon and a spiral of lemon peel. Clegane smacked his lips with satisfaction as he guzzled the hot drink.

"Snow, why are you measuring the wind?" the Hound asked, after downing his tankard.

"I want to understand how the wind blows." Jon smiled as the kite danced in the sky, the wind pushing it higher, as a laughing Chett, with the help of other children, held onto the reel.

"The Ironborn know. The wind blows from the east." Asha said.

"It blows east to west everywhere?" Arya said skeptically.

"Not on the greenlands, but it does on most of the Fourteen Seas. Here in the Shivering Sea, the cold air blows from the East. The trade winds on the Summer Sea blow East as well. That is why sailing to Yi Ti is difficult. We fight the wind as we go east, so it is a hard trip to go to Qarth and the Jade Sea." Asha replied.

"The Sea Snake sailed east many times, as Wex will tell you." Jon said. "And what you say isn't quite true. In the cold waters, the wind blows from the east north east. Near Sothoryos, the easterly comes from the east south east.

"What does that mean?" Arya asked.

"I believe it has something to do with heat. The heat might change the air just like storms occur in the Narrow Sea during autumn but not the spring. Wind is not a fixed thing, but if we can predict them, then we can harness their power. Corlys Velayron knew the winds well. That made him the greatest seafarer our world has ever known."

"No one can truly know the sea. On the Iron Islands, they say that the Storm God battles the Drowned God, until all the green lands will be covered with water. The ironborn will rule until we are dragged down to serve in the Drowned God's watery halls." Asha said.

"The Storm God? I thought that was a Baratheon thing. Wasn't there a crazy old king who claimed to be married to the gods and be the Last Storm?" Arya said.

"Durran Godsgrief. The king who built Storm's End when the First Men came to Westeros. House Baratheon married into his line eight thousand years later. All of these stories are rather fanciful, like the legend of Azor Ahai. The tales from the Age of Heroes were told to glorify great houses and explain away natural phenomena. The Storm King claim to divinity is about as well founded as the Drowned God conquering the world." Jon said.

"But long ago, the Ironborn did have vast holdings in the rivers and along the Sunset Sea. Wherever men could smell salt spray or hear the crash of waves, the longships raided and exacted tribute. Nuncle Damphair claims when the sea grows rough, and waves swell, and wind rises, the Drowned God wakes, and sends krakens to conquer the green lands."

"The Drowned God has nothing to do with the waves and the winds. Waves are caused by winds blowing over the surface of the water. And the Drowned God did not create the Ironborn. The Ironborn made up their god to justify their marauding. There are great mysteries and riddles yet to be solved, and forces that we do not understand. Conquest is not one of them. Men desire power and wealth. We do not need monsters to blame for our cruelty."

"Pardon, your grace." The Ironborn captain looked genuinely curious. "Isn't conquest the history of House Targaryen? Fire and blood are not words of peace. Without your monsters, the Iron Throne would have never been forged. The dragons might have brought an era of peace but a great deal of blood was shed to unite the Seven Kingdoms."

"When I speak of monsters, I do not think of wolves, krakens, lions, or dragons. No beast is more cruel than man, and every man has a monster within him. Sometimes, the monster wins."

"Not sometimes." Asha snorted. "Euron was born a monster. He is a kinslayer and a torturer, like many of the old Kings of the Iron Islands. Do you know why the priests of the Drowned God stopped calling for a kingsmoot? Urron Greyiron put an end to the tradition when he brought his axesmen to Nagga's Hill. He killed all the captains, the thirteen salt and rock kings, and most of the priests and prophets gathered for the moot. They named him the Red Hand after that."

"And what is the point of that story?" Jon asked.

"No one gained a crown with kindness. Forget honor if you wish to win the Iron Throne. Your enemies will resort to deceit and treachery. Tywin Lannister has twice found traitors to betray the North. What will he do now that he knows you are the rightful heir?"

"I will not be a Urron Redhand. Nor will I become a butcher like Tywin, or a madman like Euron. A king should be more than someone who seizes power with bloody hands." Jon said.

"Pretty words, but heroes and maidens win only in songs. The Crow's Eye is a monster. Better to be cruel and hard than let Euron defeat you. There will be no mercy if you fall. Maybe you don't mind death but what about your brothers and sisters? What about the Wintertown boys? Lord Tywin would skin your wolves alive to keep power."

"I do not care much about power and I am not easily baited." Jon said solemnly. "But I will not let anyone harm my friends and family. I am not afraid of spilling blood. I will protect and reward my supporters and allies but my enemies will know my wrath. No one attacks a dragon or a dire wolf with impunity."

"Good. In my absence, Nuncle Euron will be crowned King of the Isles. He will declare himself Son of the Sea Wind and claim that even winds and sea obey him. Euron plans to reap all of Westeros - Lannisport, Highgarden, the Arbor, Oldtown, even King's Landing. From the Wall to Dorne, the Crow's Eye will claim everything as plunder and prey."

"Your uncle can babble whatever he likes. Piracy works when kings are weak, and men are divided. The North has thrown back many invasions from the Ironborn. The next time, there will be no mercy. Euron's reign will be short and bloody. The Crow's Eye may burn a few towns and steal some salt wives and thralls. For every man, woman, or child lost, Robb and I will kill many times that number in Ironborn. You should hope it is Robb. He is less vengeful than I am."

"Jon is right. The North won't let the squids attack again. We will cut you off from your ships, and slaughter all the Ironborn before you return to your shitty pile of rocks." Arya said fiercely.

Asha chuckled. "Clegane was right. You Starks are a bloodthirsty bunch. That's good. Weak allies are useless. I would be glad to see Euron dead, and gladder to be the new Master of Ships. A fleet of carracks would help me rule the Ironborn. As your leal servant, your grace." The captain gave a half mocking bow, but the smile on her face softened any mockery.

Arya kept silent as the Wintertown boys finished their supper, and took down the kite when the sun began to set over the horizon. She fed some cooked meat to Nymeria and ate bread, softened in the rich stew. Arya waited until Chett returned with candles. At night, Jon taught Asha and the children how to use far-eyes and sextants to navigate by the moon and stars. Before that lesson could begin, Arya tugged on his arm to speak in private.

"She is playing with you. Asha wants to set us against Euron." Arya said.

"Of course she does. Euron is her rival for control of the Ironborn and leadership of her house. But this is not a hard argument to make, sister. The Crow's Eye will turn his eyes North, or he will pillage other lands. I am heir to the Iron Throne. Even if I wasn't, I don't want Euron running around in a rampage, killing and raping in the Seven Kingdoms."

"How is Asha different? She led the raid against Deepwood Motte. All these squids are pirates and thieves." Arya had not forgiven Theon for turning his cloak or the Ironborn for their attacks.

"The difference is in the degree. Euron is a particularly vile monster, a captain who rips the tongues out of his crew. Asha wants power, but she is no sadist. The worst monsters are those who don't care how many innocents die to advance their position. There are many who are happy to profit from human suffering or turn a blind eye to atrocities done for their favor."

"Like Tywin Lannister. He killed Aegon and Rhaenys so that Robert would marry his daughter. He sacked the Riverlands to punish Mother for arresting the Imp." Arya said.

"Tywin Lannister is respected for power and cunning but he turned the Mountain loose to burn, rape and murder. The Brave Companions are disgusting creatures but Tywin employed them to terrorize the smallfolk. The man who orders the crime is just as guilty as his underlings. That is the best argument for a king - to serve justice and enforce the laws so that men like Tywin and Baelish do not get away with their crimes."

"So you are going to fight for the Iron Throne? To protect our family and reunite the Seven Kingdoms under one banner, like your ancestors." Arya asked.

"I don't really want to be king." Jon adjusted one of the two mirrors of the sextant. The best time to take a sight was dusk, light enough to have a visible horizon but dark enough to see the stars clearly. "I would rather explore new places and things and travel to far away lands. There are better things to do than deal with greedy highborn and the intrigues of King's Landing. But in life, we often don't get what we want."

"We make our own life." Arya said fiercely. "And we are going to a new far away place now. We will meet new people and they may support you in taking the Iron Throne."

"Braavos is not so far. It is closer to White Harbor than King's Landing. We don't know how we will be received. The Iron Bank cares about the Iron Bank. To them, it doesn't matter who sits on the throne, so long as they get paid."

"Jaqen H'ghar said the Iron Bank could help you."

"Not exactly, Arya. He said the Iron Bank could be a dangerous enemy and that they have the power to make and unmake kings. H'ghar also hinted about valuable secrets known to the bankers. But that doesn't mean that they will share."

"What will we do if they support the Iron Throne?" Arya said.

"I would rather find out than be surprised by sellswords landing on our shores. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. Better to ferret out foes than allow problems to fester." Jon ruffled Arya's hair. "We should not be gloomy. We have a ship, a crew, and a world of adventure. Let us be bold and sail to unmarked waters and undreamed shores."

"I thought we were going to Braavos." Arya responded cheekily. She peered through the scope, measuring the angle between the moon and the North Star, as her brother had instructed. The moon moved across the night sky in a cycle of twenty seven days. Jon believed that celestial objects followed a complex but mechanical path. Knowing the lunar angle, the expected position of the moon, and the precise time, a navigator could calculate longitude and latitude, within a few miles. At least, that was Jon's theory and it would need years and many measurements to prove. She hoped that her brother would have the time, so that one day, ships could sail great distances into the unknown, and be confident of their location. Arya put away her fears and focused on the sextant.

The Braavosi were proud of their buildings. A city recovered from marsh and swamp prized every inch of its lands. The stonemasons built upwards - pointed arches, flying buttresses, high ribbed vaults that made room for large stained glass windows. The streets and waterways were lined with houses, so close that they leaned on each other, and a nimble child could leap from dome to gable roofs, even in the half drowned areas of town. There were a few exceptions to this congestion. The Sealord's Palace stood alone, on top of the Purple Harbor, reserved for Braavosi ships. The temples on the Isle of the Gods also were separated, lest worshippers of different divinities clash or worse, be converted from their sects. Finally, there was the Iron Bank, headquartered at the Moon Pool, at the end of the sweetwater canal.

The Iron Bank was not the largest, richest, or most mysterious building in Braavos. The Temple of the Moonsingers, a great mass of snow white marble topped with a huge silver dome, was larger, dating back to the founding of the Secret City. The Sealord's Palace exuded great wealth, with exotic menageries and lavish decorations - ornate staircases, frescoed walls, paintings, mosaics, and statues - refreshed and updated by each ruler, eager to begin their reign with new art and splendor. As for secrecy, the House of Black and White was open to the public, but few dared to step beyond the temple proper, into the dark maze of tunnels and passages.

Bellegere Otherys had been to the Iron Bank many times. Every Black Pearl, from the first of her name, a pirate queen and smuggler, had been a keyholder, with a vault stuffed with gems and jewels from patrons and admirers. Today, she was not here for deposits or withdrawals. She had been invited by the small white haired woman. They waited in the great lobby, before a marble door, marked with a symbol of two golden triangles interlocked like an hourglass, with two hands extending left and right where the triangles met, the palms facing up.

The crone rapped her staff on the polished white floor. "Have you had more dreams, sweetling?"

Bellegere had not slept well for many moons. "Yes, Madam Moonsinger. I see dragons flying over cities, walls, and fields. There are many ships preparing for battle. Blood and bodies in the water, and fire and smoke in the air."

"Poor child. Prophecy is a terrible gift. If they are true, there is little hope to avoid disaster. And if they are false, then you are revealed as a liar." The crone said. "Which of the three dragons comes most often to your dreams?"

"The black and red. The shadow of his wings stretched from one shore of the river to the other."

The crone shuddered. "That would be larger than the Black Dread. They say Balerion's breath was so hot that sand melted into glass. Such a beast would wreck our temples, burn our fleet, and turn the Secret City into a pile of dust and ash."

"Surely Braavos will not fight the dragon. What good can come from that? This city is built on trade, not war." Bellegere said aghast.

"Never doubt the stupidity of men." The crone said somberly. "There are three dragons in Essos, and they are willful creatures. The three headed dragon of Aegon and his sister wives might work together. These dragons are more likely to dance. And when dragons dance…"

"Men burn." Bellegere finished the thought. Essos had been spared the devastation of the dance but everyone knew what happened when dragons fought each other.

"Do not worry, child. You share a drop of Targaryen blood. The dragons treat bastards well, until they go to war. But for the sake of Braavos, you must tell the keyholders about your visions. The Iron Bank will not slay you for speaking the truth."

Bellegere was not certain about that but the crone offered some protection. Even the Iron Bank had to listen to the Moonsingers.

They were ushered into a large cavernous chamber with eight great ebony doors on each side. Long ago, such a room might have held great treasure, partitioned into several subterranean spaces locked away for the founding keyholders. Now, the chamber was almost entirely empty, and there was only one long etched stone table at the far end. The gold and silver had been lent out for profit, and now confidence derived not from vaults but the promises of bankers.

Three men, stiffly dressed in plain robes of brown and gray, sat behind the table. Fine purple cloaks of sable and ermine hung on the walls along with brimless felt hats. Light from the jeweled lanthorns mounted on the walls bounced off the green marble floor.

"Welcome to the Iron Bank. Please sit." Orso Ipato said. The banker was dressed in gray, with a serious face set with a thin frown and long nose. "Moonsinger Alia. You requested this meeting."

The crone gave the bankers a short curt nod as they sat down on a cold marble bench. "I speak on matters important to Braavos. This is Lady Bellegere."

"The Black Pearl is known to us." the gray man said, the dark eyes cold and unfriendly.

"Then, I should just let her tell the tale." The priestess said.

"I had a vision after drinking a goblet of shade of the evening. I saw three dragons flying under the stars. There was a great battlefield of armed men - Dothraki screamers, Andal knights, Essosi sellswords, spearman, archers, crossbowmen. There were many ships - from pole boats to war galleys. I saw lions, wolves, and a golden kraken on a sail. So many died, including children, merchants and smallfolk. And above them all, there were dragons."

"That is the way of war. Men die. Women too, and children. We, of the Iron Bank, have seen many wars. It has nothing to do with us. In a war, kings and magistrates must borrow more. So long as the winner pays the debts, the Iron Bank will lend their gold."

"But the fighting was not in the Seven Kingdoms. Dothraki do not cross salt water. It was in Essos. There were purple sails from Braavos, sphinxes and harpies, and a great dragon flying over the Rhoyne. It was a terrible beast with blood red eyes, and great black wings…"

"That may be an exciting tale, with heroes and villains, dragon queens who break chains, and hidden princes in the North. Here, we prefer simpler stories, with less color and more numbers. We count coins, taxes, and the interest on our loans. The Iron Throne has borrowed millions of gold dragons. Our priority is to make sure the debt is repaid in full."

"The Iron Bank has chosen to back the Lannisters." The priestess said.

"The war does not matter to us." Orso retorted. "The gold lent to the Iron Throne does. A Lannister always pays his debts. Lord Tywin understands the importance of money."

"The Old Lion worships gold and power, just like the Iron Bank. Casterly Rock was built on gold mines. House Lannister would not be much without gold." The crone sniffed.

"What do rocks and gold matter? The Old Lion is old. The dragons are young. Do you expect our ships to survive dragonfire? Why make enemies out of dragons?" Bellegere cried out.

"I agree with the Lady." The priestess declared. "Dragons become stronger and fiercer with age. Time is on the side of the Targaryens."

"What old men lack in strength, they make up with cunning. Tricks can win wars just as easily as gold and swords."

"What are you not telling us?" The priestess said sharply. "What do you know that gives you confidence in the Iron Throne?"

The gray man gave a wary look. After a quick and whispered conversation with the two other envoys, Orso turned back. "This news will be known in two day's time. The Iron Throne has put a bounty on Jon Snow. One million gold dragons for his head or proof of death."

A million gold dragons! That was an astonishing amount. Bellegere considered herself well-off, with an opulent pleasure barge, investments in trade, ships and land, and jewels stored at the bank. A million dragons was wealth beyond imagination, even for the great families of Braavos.

"Murder for money – Are the Braavosi nothing more than mercenaries for hire? Better to sell your body than your soul." the crone said with disdain.

"If a man kills another for ten pieces of silver, he is a cutthroat. If he kills for a castle, then the man is a lord. But a million gold dragons - that man would be deemed a statesman, a magister, or perhaps a king. This head money may seem ugly but it is simply war in another form."

"And do you plan to profit from this bounty?" the priestess asked.

Orso appeared surprised by the accusation. "The Iron Bank does not kill men. But if a million dragons found its way to our coffers, then that gold would be lent out, perhaps back to the Iron Throne at a fair rate. Gold is gold, Madam. It must circulate."

"Many in Braavos will be disgusted." Bellegere said. "The Targaryen saved our city. The Sealord and his son are grateful to Prince Daemon. So are the captains, the mummers, the courtesans. In the Isle of the Gods, the priests offer prayers in thanks for the elixir."

"The gratitude of priests does not last long. Many may admire Jon Snow. It only takes one to kill him. When he dies, any rebellion against the Iron Throne will end."

"Dragons are hard to kill." The old woman said. "Even young ones. He does not have an army - yet. He does not have followers - yet. He has not met with his aunt, who has hatched dragons out of stone - yet. What will you do when that changes?"

"The Northern army has been disbanded. Daenerys Targaryen is far away. Where are Jon Snow's fighting men? What dragons does he have now? The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the best way to bet." Orso said.

"You have made your decision. This lust for gold will endanger us all. The Secret City was meant for more than just amassing wealth. Braavos was once a beacon for freedom, a place where slaves and thralls could throw off their shackles. Now we are no better than the other cities of Essos, where wealth equals power." The moonsinger said.

"My lady, there is more at stake here than you realize. The bounty offered by the Iron Throne is not quite what it seems. Debt, poorly used, is a trap, easy enough to enter, but hard to leave. We will earn more than gold from the Seven Kingdoms. We will have a hold over the king and an iron grip on Westeros for a long time."

"So you are not just hungry for gold. You want power as well." The moonsinger said.

"We are but the servants of the Iron Bank. The bank's interests are aligned with Braavos. And if that comes with more wealth and power, then so be it. We did not set this bounty. We do not send men to kill Jon Snow. But if that happens, then why should the bank not profit? Braavos did not become wealthy by turning away opportunities. The blame for Jon Snow's death falls on his killers and the Iron Throne, not the Iron Bank."

"He is not dead yet." Bellegere retorted.

"All men must die. No one lives forever, especially dragon princes. The flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long. And this Targaryen has burned very bright." Orso said.

Every great castle had its own unique character, a function of the sweep of history and the temperament of the present ruler. Tyrion was most familiar with the Rock. Casterly Rock was carved out of a great stone hill, jutting into the Sunset Sea. The mighty castle, from the caverns and tunnels to the manned watchtowers, loomed over Lannisport like a lion at rest surveying its domain. Lord Tywin demanded constant order and efficiency, so that the Rock was splendid enough to host kings, and too strong to be assaulted.

No other castle was as forbidding or majestic as his family home. Harrenhal was obscene in size and scale but dark and ruined. Storm's End was strong and hard to assail but the fortress had only a single powerful tower, rising like an angry fist against the sky. Winterfell was sturdy and unadorned, a plain castle for the plain North. The less said about the Eyrie, the better. Tyrion had not enjoyed the stay in the Sky Cells or the winds shrieking through theMoon Door.

The Red Keep did not compare to Casterly Rock. The keep was smaller, a constant hubbub of work and activity, as lords and nobles came to play in the game of thrones, bringing droves of servants, squires, and guards. And spies, Tyrion thought. The Red Keep, like all of King's Landing, was a hive of intrigue, where every drudge was happy to traffick in secrets sold to the highest bidder. This, combined with King Robert's propensity for drink, food, and tourneys, made the castle a chaotic mess, as fortune hunters, male and female, swarmed about the ruling stags, like hounds and hawks in a hunt.

His father intended to change all that. Tywin planned to bring greater decorum and discipline to the Red Keep. Courtiers had been replaced with men who pledged loyalty to Casterly Rock, servants were warned about the harsh costs of betrayal, spies had been torn out root and stem, and guards wore red and not gold in the castle. Tyrion did not find fault with his father's actions. He would have tried the same. There was a problem though - the Red Keep was not the Rock, and the Hand was not the King.

Joffrey bristled at any attempts to control his actions. The King knew better than to torture cats or flog servants to death, at least as long as the Tyrells were watching. Joffrey might be a Baratheon only in name, but he had the temper and obstinacy of the stags along with the pride with the lions. Only last week, he had ordered Dontos Hollard drowned in a cask of ale after the knight showed up drunk in the yard. The loss of the pitiful sot made no difference but that was Joffrey's attitude toward all his subjects. The King's temper was particularly high against the Riverlanders. Tyrion had walked into many meetings between Tywin and Joffrey where punishment was demanded for the rebel lords.

"I want their heads!' the King screeched. His nephew was quite brave when the Starks were a thousand miles away.

"We cannot sack every single castle in the region, your grace. It would provoke the Reach and drive the Rivermen to solicit aid from the North. The roads are open, the towns are recovering and there is trade and order along the Trident." Tywin said with slight annoyance.

"Your mercy makes the Iron Throne look weak! The Riverlords will turn back to the Starks and this bastard. Burn the castles to the ground and give the lands to new lords loyal to the crown."

"Riverrun, Darry and Harrenhal are bound to the Iron Throne. No king can seize every castle or punish every lord. Aerys liked to burn his bannermen. Aegon the Conqueror was merciful toward his enemies. One began a dynasty that lasted nearly three hundred years. The other ended his house. It is better to rule over men than ashes." Tywin's voice revealed irritation. His father had repeated this conversation many times.

The lesson was rather simple. A good ruler required both the carrot and the stick. Joffrey, besides the occasional beating by Robert, had never known the stick, and was too cruel and dense to give out any carrots, even ones with little cost to the throne. The Rivermen were rebellious but further violence would only harden their considerable resentment. Instability on the Trident would help their enemies by draining the crown of gold and men. His vicious nephew was truly a dunce. Tyrion grasped these concepts at a much younger age, without spending hours with Lord Tywin, learning how to rule.

Today, there was no session of court or the Small Council. Rain pitter pattered on the roof of the Kitchen Keep, draining down to cisterns and barrels. The smallfolk still had duties but knights could not spar in the yard, and few highborn enjoyed trekking up and down the serpentine steps slickened by rain. He looked forward to a meal of hot buttered eggs, served on warm bread with garlic sausage and blackberry jam. Tyrion hummed a jaunty Myrish tune when he saw a familiar head of blond hair near the scullery.

"Tommen! What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in Maegor's Holdfast?"

The plump boy blushed. "I am avoiding the maesters. I'd rather spend time with my uncles than read some old and boring scroll."

Tyrion chuckled. With Pycelle dead, the schedule for the education of the royal household had fallen into disarray. Then again, Joffrey and Tommen had never been very studious, unlike their much smarter sister. He snagged freshly baked apple tarts, topped with a golden rose of honey, from a tray. "We will share these. Wait, your uncles – Have you seen Jaime already today?"

"Uncle Jaime took me riding in the Kingswood. We saw a mother deer and fawn, and rabbits." the boy said happily.

Tyrion's mouth hung open as he swallowed an apple slice, sweetened with honey and cheese. "Jaime? Riding in the woods? Wasn't it raining this morning?"

"Yes, Uncle. But Jaime said that a bit of water should not bother a knight. He asked about my lessons, and whether I had been writing to Myrcella. He said to never listen to Joffrey."

Tyrion gulped hard. Those were fine words for a father to a son, but his brother had never spent time with his children. Jaime could not risk any questions about why all three had golden curls and emerald green eyes, not when Robert was alive. The stags were gone but there was still Tywin and Joffrey. If Jaime admitted that Cersei's children were a product of their incestous coupling, there would be hell to pay. A shitstorm that would swallow all the Lannisters.

"Do you think I should spar more in the yard?" Tommen prattled. "I could be a warrior, like Uncle Jaime. I am old enough to serve as a squire for a knight in the Kingsguard or foster for a lord."

In battle, Tommen would never be the equal of Ser Robert Brax or the Strongboar, but that was not the point. A knight that never demonstrated prowess at a tourney could still become well respected, like Ser Kevan. Cersei would never allow it as his sister wanted to keep all her children under her thumb. That was a pity. Fostering in the Westerlands would help Tommen's confidence and let him meet other boys his age.

"I am sure you would be a great knight. You might even travel around the Seven Kingdoms, like Ser Duncan the Tall."

"He was a hedge knight. I do not think I would do well sleeping in hedges." Tommen said.

Tyrion chuckled. Some knights were so poor that they slept beneath the hedges that grew along the byways of the Seven Kingdoms. Lord Tywin scorned such men as being little better than beggars, and often as not, bandits and robbers. Then again, his father had employed vermin like the Mountain and Ser Amory Lorch to do his bidding. Wealth had little relation to decency. "Where is Jaime? He is not sparring in the yard."

Tommen pointed out the window to a cluster of elm and cottonwood trees. Rain continued to fall, the drops forming rivulets that joined into streams seeking a way to the steps and the buildings below. Tyrion grabbed a heavy woolen cloak and rushed out.

The Red Keep was built after the Age of Magic. The castle was formidable, constructed as a fitting abode for the Targaryen dynasty to replace the initial wooden fort, but lacked the sorcery that had raised the Hightower, Dragonstone, and Storm's End. The godswood of the Red Keep was pleasant enough, an acre of elm, alder and cottonwood trees but with no weirwood as a heart tree. Instead, Tyrion found Jaime facing a great oak, the thick limbs overrun with red smokeberry vines.

The branches of the mighty oak offered some cover against the driving rain. Tyrion's stubby legs throbbed slightly from the walk. Besides his brother, no one else was fool enough to willingly go out in the rain. Jaime stood in white enameled armor, the plain unadorned white shield resting against the trunk. His brother's gauntleted hands were folded together at the waist and the white cloak billowed in the wind.

"Have you started worshiping trees? A bad habit to pick up from Northmen."

"Tyrion, what are you doing out?" Jaime's eyes turned away from the oak.

"I was worried. What madman goes riding during a storm and then stays out in the downpour?"

"This rain is not that bad." Jaime said dismissively. "The weather was worse when I hunted outlaws in the Kingswood with Ser Arthur Dayne. I came out here to think. You extol the importance of the mind, so I am imitating your habits."

"As a great philosopher once said, the best way to contemplate life is with a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and a beautiful woman. That is why I do my best work in a brothel, not out in the rain." Tyrion's quip elicited a smile and small laugh.

At least his brother had not turned into Lancel. Their cousin was a sorry figure - gray faced, grim, gaunt, scraggly haired, weakened from constant fasting. A Lannister in a hair shirt was no Lannister but a common sparrow. Jaime would always be Tywin's Golden Child that men would follow in battle. His brother had shed his ornate golden armor for the white of the kingsguard. The question was which king. "I doubt a brothel would suit me. I have been thinking about the mistakes of my past. Running away from Casterly Rock to join the Kingsguard, dishonoring my vows, not spending time with my three children…"

"Some of that was not your fault, Jaime. Our father could drive anyone away, and you were bewitched by Cersei. You were only one and six when you joined the white cloaks."

"It was my fault. We are not boys anymore. I made my choices and they were all shit. I served a mad king. I slept with our sister. And I never was a father. I only provided the seed. I never held the children when they were babes."

"Don't torture yourself with the past." Easier said than done. He had his own ghosts, namely a boy in the North with gold hair and green eyes, and his low born and innocent wife. Where do whores go? Tysha was not a whore until Tyrion had made her one.

"I am not wallowing." Jaime said calmly. "I made my mistakes, and I will atone for them. I served the wrong king before. I can change that now."

"You are being hasty. We may never know if Rhaegar married Lyanna. Snow may try to entice you to join him but that would set you against House Lannister. He might not want the throne, or even die before ever reaching King's Landing."

Jaime shook his head. "I offered Snow my sword and he denied me. I would have gladly kept my promise to Rhaegar to guard his children. At first, I thought it was because I wasn't worthy. The Kingslayer, a man without honor, the white cloak who failed his silver prince. But then I realized that wasn't the message at all."

"What did Snow say?" Tyrion asked.

"That my deeds be true to my vows. To be brave. To be just. To defend the young and innocent. I have been a knight for half my life and not lived up to those words. I want to regain my honor. Daemon Targaryen did not judge me as unworthy. He told me to rise and become a better man."

"Sweet words. But what if you must fight your family for the Iron Throne - against your children? What is your honor worth then?" Tyrion warned.

"I am a knight. Should knighthood be easy? Tourneys and feasts and maidens swooning to grant me their favor? Some things are worth the sacrifice. I will die a knight." Jaime picked up the shield and walked away, the white cloak heavy with rain.

Tyrion knew then that they had lost his brother. Lancel was besotted by the Faith, the septons and the Seven Pointed Star. Jaime chose a different path, but he was no less blind. Few knights lived up to the chivalric ideal. There was a price to be paid for honor and justice, as Ned Stark learned at the Great Sept of Baelor. His brother had made many vows over the years - to be a knight, to be a Kingsguard, to protect the children of Rhaegar. Sometimes oaths became more than words and habits. Sometimes, oaths became chains that were too heavy to be broken.

The nobles of Dorne gathered in the throne room of the Tower of the Sun, under the dome of gold and leaded glass. The morning light shone through many colored windows onto two high chairs atop the dais. Prince Doran occupied the right, a red and gold and orange silk blanket on his lap. His seat had the Martell spear inlaid in gold upon its back, while the left was shaped like the blazing Rhoynish sun. Besides the design, the chairs were the same in size and height.

Myrcella once asked Trystane if his mother, Lady Mellario, sat next to the prince when House Martell received the bannerman. He had remarked that no consort had ever sat in Nymeria's chair. Before the Princess landed her fleet at the river Greenblood, the Martells were a lesser family, at the mercy of House Yronwood and other petty kings. The ten thousand ships were full of women, children and old men but they had fought off pirates and slavers in Sothoryos and the Summer Sea. With Martell knights and bannermen, Nymeria of Ny Sar united Dorne, sent six kings to the Wall, gave birth to five children, and installed Rhoynar laws and customs during a thirty year reign. In a thousand years, no one deserved to sit on her throne.

Every single great house had sent a representative to Sunspear. Some were already in Planky Town to attend the wake for the Matron Mother but more came with the news of Oberyn Martell's return. Knights and lords wished to hear the story directly from the Red Viper - how the plague spread in King's Landing, what the Iron Throne did or did not do, and why a Northerner sailed to Maidenpool and crafted a cure that answered their prayers.

Myrcella had heard the tale many times before, from Sarella, Edric and other Sand Snakes. Nymeria, who had nearly succumbed, was reluctant to share her ordeal, but Tyene and Obara spoke freely. Today, it was the Red Viper who captivated the crowd, finishing the account with a dramatic flourish.

"After the feast, the Prince sailed back North before sunrise. He left elixir, mold samples, and scrolls with instructions to make the cure for the ship captains and the Tyrells. We sailed home the next morning on the Cinnamon Wind, after dispatching ravens to Sunspear."

An elegant gray haired man in flame red and bright yellow stood up. Harmen Uller was Lord of Hellholt, and the Red Viper's good father. "My prince, what does this Prince Daemon or Jon Snow want? What are his intentions regarding Dorne and the Iron Throne?"

"He must be a Targaryen. The boy is mad." A sandy haired lord interrupted. "This elixir is worth more than its weight in gold. If he refused to supply the cure to King's Landing, Tywin Lannister might be dead. What sane person would save his enemies?"

"Shut your mouth, Fowler, or I will show you what mad truly is." Harmen shook his fist before calming down. "My brother, Ser Ulywck, his wife and eldest son caught the plague from a merchant trading on the Brimstone. Maester Mollen gave them milk of the poppy and dreamwine but the black spots appeared on the neck and arms. Yet, a day after taking the elixir, my brother and his family were cured. How can we repay such a gift?"

"Lord Uller, I know Jon Snow. He does not want gold or silver. Gifts of spices, gems, silk, cloth, and steel will not matter. He likes wine and good food, but Jon is no wastrel that drinks and eats his life away." Sarella Sand said.

"Then what can be done?" The gray haired man thumped a strong right hand against his chest. "A king's gift is never free. We render service to our liege lords and in return receive land, titles, and boons. I am not a miser who lives on charity. It offends a man's dignity."

"The prince saved my life but refused any award. All he asked was that I get better, and drink and eat to regain my health. He claimed no boon and I would have given anything he asked." Nymeria said.

"Jon Snow did not ask for oaths of loyalty, at least not yet. That may change one day, but for now, we should name him a friend." Sarella said.

"A friend?" Harmen frowned. "I have never met the man. Is Jon Snow your equal, my lady? Can anyone in this chamber claim that he or she is the equal of a lost Targaryen prince?"

"It does not matter what we claim." Doran Martell said softly. "If Snow wishes to offer us his friendship, then we should accept. This is not a man who intrigues or sells whispers for profit. He makes no demands upon us."

"But friendship creates its own demands, my prince. War is coming. The dragons will take back the Iron Throne from the lions and the false stags. What will Dorne do? Will we call our spears? Will we march to King's Landing to avenge Elia, Aegon and Rhaenys? How can Dorne stand by, while the boy gains a crown?" Lord Uller demanded.

Hellholt was known throughout the Seven Kingdoms for one reason. Ten years after Aegon began the conquest, Queen Rhaenys and Meraxes were slain when an iron bolt from a scorpion struck the dragon's right eye. The Targaryens burned down the fortress several times and murdered four consecutive Lords of the Hellholt. There was a saying in Dorne - "Half the Ullers are half-mad, and the other half are worse." Lord Harmen was thirsty for war, and wanted to pay Jon Snow back in blood. My family's blood, Myrcella knew. They blame the lions for the last war.

"Robb Stark has not called his banners yet. To gather an army in the North takes many moons, and winter is coming. Before Daemon launches his campaign south, we will have ample notice. Better to wait and see what allies this prince gathers before we commit our forces." Doran said.

"Are we to wait and do nothing?" Harmen sneered. " Dorne is a large place as well, my prince. To raise our full fighting strength will also take time. It has been seventeen years since Dornish blood was spilled at the Trident. The Stormlands are weak. The Reach have sent their lords to kneel in King's Landing. We all seek vengeance for Princess Elia."

"I have not forgotten the murder of my sister or her children. We have soldiers stationed at the Prince's Pass and Boneway. Once they are unleashed, the armies cannot be called back. A small spark can light a great fire, and we do not know when and where the flames will burn. There are steps that need to be taken but I understand the anger of Dorne."

"Do you, my prince? Do you really?" Lord Uller said.

The question hung in the air when a short, bald and fat man ran into the room. Caleotte was a capable healer and a loyal henchman who had served the prince for decades. The maester whispered a few words, and the prince made a quick gesture to Oberyn. In a few moments, the Red Viper dismissed the other highborn, before placing a jaunty arm about Edric Dayne.

The chamber was clear before the captain of the guards pushed forth a rolling chair with soft velvet cushions and wheels of ebony and iron. With two strong arms, Areo Hotah carried the prince from chair to chair. The Myrish blanket had slipped, revealing swollen and reddened joints. The legs and feet were soft and shapeless, and the prince bit down hard to stop from crying out. The maester carefully placed the blanket on Doran's lap, before giving a thimble cup of pale liquid. Myrcella recognized it as milk of the poppy, mixed with strongwine and water.

Twenty Martell guards accompanied the prince to the solar, five walking ahead and five behind with the rest at the flanks. The eldest Sand Snakes, Trystane and Arianne followed the captain while Oberyn escorted Myrcella and Edric.

They waited until Caleotte made certain of the prince's comfort before handing over the note marked with Joffrey's personal arms - a shield split into gold and crimson with a black crowned stag on the left and a rampant golden lion on the right. The two sigils appeared to be fighting. Two bowls of olives, green and purple, were placed on the goldenwood table along with a silver tray of flatbread, cheese, and chickpea paste. The fragrance of sliced blood oranges, tangy and sweet, filled the air. Servants poured cups of strongwine and lemonsweet. Doran read the letter thoroughly, before grimacing and handing it to Oberyn.

Once the guards and maids had left the chamber, Arianne could not hold back her curiosity. "What does the raven say?"

"The Iron Throne declares Jon Snow a traitor to the crown and his life forfeit for the murder of Petyr Baelish. King Joffrey will pay one million gold dragons for his head or proof of death." Oberyn spat out.

"Snow did not kill Petyr Baelish. Baelish attempted to murder Snow along with burning down the bathhouse and stealing the elixir." Nymeria Sand said, outraged.

"Truth has never mattered to kings. A bounty of a million dragons will bring out many killers." Oberyn replied bluntly.

"Your family, Little Lion, is to blame for this." Nymeria hissed to Myrcella. "Your grandfather murdered our aunt and royal cousins. Your mother is Queen Regent for the Iron Throne. Your brother sits on the chair and orders the death of a man who saved my life. You should pay!"

Edric Dayne stepped between the Sand Snake and her target. "She is not to blame for Joffrey's decree. Prince Daemon would not punish her for the crimes of the Lannisters."

"How can you be certain?" a still angry Nymeria asked.

"Because I served him in the Riverlands. I spent the last six moons in Winterfell before sailing to Maidenpool with the prince. Walder Frey was a disgusting creature but his daughters and granddaughters were unharmed. They have wed Stark bannermen and been granted holdfasts in the Bolton lands. Joffrey the Ill-Born should be punished for his plot, not Lady Myrcella."

"Joffrey Baratheon signed the raven but this is clearly Lord Tywin's work." Doran said. "He is happy to use robbers and thugs so long as he can claim his hands are clean. Tywin knows that a Targaryen prince is a mortal threat to House Lannister."

"I advised him to march directly on King's Landing. Let the plague run loose among the lions. With a few houses from the Crownlands and a quick marriage for swords, Snow would have had enough men to seal off the city. He could have taken the Iron Throne." Oberyn lamented.

"Dragons make their own path, and that plan would have sentenced many to die. Jon Snow is not a bloodthirsty man." Sarella said.

"People will die anyway. Crowns are not won without blood. You won't convince the Lannisters to give up the Iron Throne with a Great Council. Tywin is many things, most of them vile, but no one thinks he is a fool. Even a dragon can die from poison or a knife in the back." Oberyn said.

"Then we must protect him. How can House Martell stand by and do nothing while this prince may be murdered? Uncle, give me an army. Let me ride North." Nymeria said.

"Where will you go, niece? Winterfell? Will Dornish swords and spears stop an assassin better than Stark guards? Snow may be safe in the North, but south of the Neck, some knight or lord may kill him, like Baelish almost did. The gods are cruel. The plans of princes and kings can go awry like sand in the desert wind. Better for Snow to stay away from the Lannisters, for now."

Doran Martell looked weary and regretful, as if the weight of rule had been too heavy to bear. He had only been Prince of Dorne for three years before the Rebellion broke out, and his family in King's Landing was slain. Her mother claimed that the Martells were weak and slothful, more bark than bite, and always yapping about being vipers. It was more than that, Myrcella realized. The Prince wanted revenge, but his plots have failed to bear fruit. Would he give up or redouble his efforts?

"Prince Daemon will not stay North because of an edict from King's Landing. Why should he?" Edric said. "He will prepare for the wars to come by looking for allies outside the North."

"The dragon queen. Jon will seek out Queen Daenerys and her three dragons." Sarella realized. "That means he will go to Essos. And the killers will seek him out there."

Edric shrugged, "Perhaps, my lady. I do not know his plans but he will not cower from the threat of death. Gold and numbers alone do not win battles. The North proved that in the Riverlands. Let the Lannisters plot all they want. Monsters do not always win." Edric said.

The Red Keep was not designed for comfort. When Aegon commanded his armorers to forge a throne out of a thousand swords, the Conqueror had said "A king should never sit easy." That was also true for everyone else in the castle, and not because of treachery or intrigue. The Red Keep was cold and dark and damp. Like most great strongholds, the fortress was built high up on a hill, overlooking a harbor, enduring the high winds and driving rain from Blackwater Bay. Even dragon kings could not afford glass in great quantities, so most windows were narrow openings, covered by shutters or curtains, to let in light and air - cold gusty air, now that the long summer had passed. As the Starks liked to say – "Winter is coming."

Tyrion knew that he was fortunate, compared to most. His quarters in the Kitchen Keep were spacious and airy, warmed by constant fires lit for cooking. Only Maegor's Holdfast was better equipped to deal with the cold, and there, he would have to interact with his family. He could tolerate Cersei in small doses but Joffrey had grown more brazen. A king was not easily denied, not even by a strong Hand.

For now, the bursts of anger were directed against the rivermen. The river lords had bent the knee, but their loyalties were questionable at best. Walder Frey and Petyr Baelish were dead, and no one else was a viable candidate to be appointed the new Lord Paramount of the Trident. The king argued that the Riverlands belonged to him by right of conquest. Like the crownlands, the riverlords should declare fealty directly, and not through a warden or great house.

Joffrey demanded that the river lords swear their oaths in person. He intended to host a great tournament in King's Landing, in honor of his accession to the Iron Throne. There, the king would root out traitors and expose Northern plots. Tyrion did not need an expensive tourney to answer these questions. No one wanted Joffrey as king but a rebellion had yet to arise, mostly because the Seven Kingdoms were still recovering from the last war. Of course, if a few more heads were chopped off at the Sept of Baelor, that might change.

Tyrion made his way to the Great Hall. The throne room was a sea of silk, steel and gold. The lesser lords were in colorful fabrics of lilac, turquoise and mauve while the Tyrells were garbed in green and gold and the Lannisters dressed in gold and red. Above them, Joffrey sat among barbs, blades and spikes. The Iron Throne looked even more uncomfortable than before. The blacksmiths and alchemists had done what they could to remove the charred slag but the chair was warped and twisted by wildfire.

The king wore a crimson doublet of the finest samite, and a scarlet mantle inlaid with golden scrollwork. On his head, a crown of red gold studded with rubies and black diamonds rested. Gone were the antlers and stags of the Baratheons. This crown would suit Aegon the Unworthy - huge, heavy, and ostentatious. It was too large for Joffrey's head, but then his nephew had never let common sense or modesty dictate his behavior.

Lord Tywin sat at the council table with Queen Dowager Cersei. Tyrion watched as his father took charge of the court. A Wendwater knight was rewarded with a fine war horse and suit of plate armor for good service. A border dispute between the Antlers and Sow's Horn was settled to the satisfaction of both lords. The crown would cover the costs of repairing the sept in Saltpans, looted by Northmen. House Rykker's petition to expand the docks at Duskendale was denied. Tyrion had to admit that his father was good at ruling. Tywin had the appearance of fairness even as both highborn and smallfolk knew the iron fist that lay underneath.

Court proceeded smoothly until the last supplicant came forth. A pale pasty man with a fleshy face and flabby cheeks was supported by two sons, too young to be knights.

"Lord William Mooton of Maidenpool." A crier announced. On the throne, Joffrey stirred from his torpor, glaring at the trembling noble.

"Lord Mooton. You are charged with conspiring with the traitor Jon Snow. How do you plead?" Tywin asked brusquely.

"I had nothing to do with Snow." The timid man stuttered. "I was locked up in a tower and released only when he left for the North."

Joffrey lurched to his feet. "Liar. You are Lord of Maidenpool! Why did you not order your guards to arrest the bastard?"

William looked desperately toward the Tyrells. Ser Garlan had taken the castle with five thousand men, but Lord Mooton would get no aid or comfort from the Reach. "Your grace, I never saw Jon Snow. I surrendered. My guards would have been slaughtered and.."

"What of Lord Baelish?" Tywin asked. "Did you see Jon Snow kill Petyr Baelish?"

"Your grace, I only saw the four walls of my cell. I do not recall even knowing that Baelish was in Maidenpool." Mooton pleaded to the Hand. The Lord had forgotten that Joffrey, not Tywin, was king. It was a mistake that many in court made.

"A stay in the Black Cells might jog your memory. Two weeks, and you may recall more about Jon Snow and his crimes." Tywin responded.

"We do not need a fortnight." Joffrey declared. "If you will not tell us what we wish, then you have no need of your title and lands. Treason will never go unpunished in my reign. You and your sons will suffer for this."

"Your grace, please spare me." Mooton cowered. "I could do nothing against them."

"I grow bored of your pathetic wailing. Consider yourself lucky that I won't take the heads of your children, as well." Joffrey said. "Ser Jaime, bring me his head."

Jaime Lannister walked between the tearful family and the throne. The white enameled scale mail had been polished to a mirror shine and his brother's hand rested on the pommel of his longsword. "No."

"What do you mean? You are the kingsguard. You serve the king." Joffrey cried out.

"I serve the rightful king – Daemon Targaryen, son of Prince Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark. He is the true heir." Jaime removed his white cloak and tossed the cloth onto the steep steps. Tyrion would have laughed at the stunned faces of his father and sister but this was deadly serious. The raiment fluttered and snagged on the spiked steel at the sides of the throne."

"Don't be a fool." Tywin called out in a harsh voice, breaking the short silence.

"Traitor! Kill him! Kill him now. I command it." Joffrey shrieked as he slammed down his hands angrily, and screamed again in pain as his arm brushed against a sharp metal fang. The crimson of the doublet turned a darker red as blood stained the right sleeve. "Mother." The boy wailed and looked faint.

The gold cloaks followed Cersei as she rushed to embrace her son. Both Jaime and Tywin were still as stone with the Old Lion seething at his troubled family. A frightened Joffrey staggered down the steps, barely avoiding the barbs and blades, leaving a trail of blood. His nephew looked like a lost little boy, whose misdeeds had been exposed. His brother stood proudly, like a knight out of songs. Ser Jaime the Stupid, Tyrion sighed.

In the Great Hall, everyone began to whisper as the Kingsguard escorted their former Lord Commander away. Jaime went away peacefully, with no look for Cersei or Joffrey, as blood continued to drip on the once white cloak.

Author's Notes

In the Age of Sails, ships seem to cap out at 150 feet long. Longships were 65 feet, cogs varied from 50 to 80 feet. The dromonds (war galleys) of ancient Rome capped out at 150 feet as well! Perhaps that was the max size due to harbors, bays and ports, or some law of physics meant ships had structural issues beyond a certain point.

Marine sandglasses were used as early as the 14th century to tell time. The water clock, also known as a clepsydra, was much older, but didn't function well at sea, given the rolling and shaking of the boat. It took until 1761 for a true marine chronometer, the forefather of precision watches given the highly complex springs and movements, to be built.

Kites originated in other parts of the world before coming to the West. China is given the credit by most historians but it is quite possible that it was invented by many cultures. The Europeans learned about it first from the accounts of Marco Polo.

In 1714, the British Parliament passed an act, authorizing a 20,000 pound prize for solving longitude within half a degree. The main recipient was John Harrison who created the first marine chronometer. However, Tobias Mayer was the mathematician who calculated the lunar tables used by most navigators. This took five years, and Mayer was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. Taking lunars with sextants was the way to calculate until the mid 1800s.

The architecture is very much like Venice, before the Renaissance. The Sealord's Palace is akin to the Doge Palace. The doge was elected for life, by an oligarchy of merchants and nobles. Essentially the capitalists called the shots in Venice, and could limit the doge's power.

As for the Bank knowing about the bounty before others in Braavos, that was common practice for financial concerns. The story is that the Rothschilds used a network of carrier pigeons to trade government bonds on news of Napoleon's defeat. That tale may be apocryphal but the family had a network of information between London, Frankfurt, Paris, Naples, and Vienna.

The gold must circulate is a simple nod to how banks work. Whether there is war or peace, the bank collects its toll.

"The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the best way to bet." has two origins. Those words are credited to Hugh Keough, a sportswriter in the early 20th century and a horse racing enthusiast. The phrase plays off the Biblical passage in Ecclesiastes 9:11, that notes that time and chance happen to them all.

The moonsingers were originally enslaved priestesses of the Jogos Nhai. The Jogos Nhai are likely based on the Xiongnu, given the historic fighting with the Yi Ti. As escaped slaves, the moonsingers would support freedom rather than the more grey Iron Bank.

"The flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long." The original quote is attributed to Lao Tzu but in pop culture, it is most linked to Bladerunner, when the Tyrell head speaks to Leroy.

The Rock is based on Gibraltar, the promontory overlooking the entrance to the Mediterranean. Gibraltar is over 1000 feet high, so a formidable stronghold. Many locations in Westeros are connected to actual history. Winterfell looks like a castle belonging to the House of York.

Tyrion's quip to Jaime comes from Omar Khayyam. He was a Persian poet, mathematician and philosopher who wrote the Rubaiyat which includes the verse "A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread, and Thou." No question Tyrion would like a poem that glorifies the grape.

Gift giving is a large part of the medieval world. French kings would spend a significant chunk of taxes to give gifts back to their lords. The exchange of gifts had a certain protocol where the reciprocity had to be within bounds. The Mongol empire depended on gifts from the khans to their captains and commanders to ensure loyalty.

"Half the Ullers are half-mad, and the other half are worse." When Arianne is imprisoned for the plot that nearly killed Myrcella, she considers which lord to contact who might free her. She rejects the Ullers because they are too dangerous.

The North is the largest kingdom, perhaps a third of the total landmass of the Seven Kingdoms. Of course, you could argue the lands above the Wall are huge, but they are a total mystery. Dorne and the Reach are the two next largest by area, although the Reach is far more dense and populous. Presumably the Stormlands, Crownlands, and Westerlands have the same number of people but less square miles than Dorne.

The Dorne plot is botched in the show but that is understandable given the conflicting motives of the Martells and the absence of Quentyn and fake Aegon. Book Doran goes between worrying about how many people will die in war to trying to push forward a confusing and multi pronged plan for revenge - marrying Arianne to Viserys, sending Quentyn to Daenerys and supporting fake Aegon. The line about the plans of princes going awry comes from a talk with Arianne.

"Monsters do not always win" is a reference to Sansa's thoughts after her father's head is chopped off by Joffrey. While it is a sign of her awakening, it is also a question of an unreliable narrator. Given her guilt in Ned Stark's death, you can't take her words entirely at face value. If you did, you would have to make her a monster to emerge victorious from the game of thrones.

Castles were quite unpleasant. They were built high up as a defensive stronghold. They had poor light and sanitation. Glass making is an old technology but too expensive for more than beads and goblets. It makes the great stained glass windows in churches even more striking. By the 1700s, glass was becoming cheap enough to be used commonly in windows in England.

Joffrey's instincts to take over the Riverlands are correct. The story of the English Middle Ages is kings asserting their authority over powerful lords. There were different ways of doing so, but if a lord messed up, taking their castles was a good way to consolidate power. Of course, if a lord became powerful and desperate enough, he might get foreign allies and depose the king! That explains why Tywin wants the status quo for now. Consolidating power is less dangerous if the Starks are out of the picture.

The throne room scene borrows a lot from the Sansa chapter after the Battle of the Blackwater where Joffrey announces his engagement to Margaery Tyrell. Several Stormland knights declare that Stannis is the rightful king and Joffrey is an abomination, born out of incest. Joffrey does cut himself on the Iron Throne, and he does wail for his mother. I think that was omitted from the TV show but the scenes in House of the Dragon with Viserys bleeding on the throne brought it back. "Treason will never go unpunished" is what Joffrey says before cutting off Ned Stark's head.