13 Skill and Politics
I arrived in Astapor just in time for the transaction between the slave owner and my sister. Kraznys was explaining how the soldiers were untested when I arrived. Several people were startled when I appeared in the crowd suddenly. I pushed my way forwards and joined Daenerys. "I was beginning to think you weren't going to make it," she said.
"Late night war planning sessions, you understand," I said. She walked forward and unlatched the cage carrying the largest of her three dragons. I stepped aside and stood in front of Jorah and Ser Barristan. Neither or the men looked particularly thrilled about what was going on and I assumed my sister had still not clued them into her plan. She hadn't told me either, but I knew she would never truly give away one of her dragons.
She presented Drogon to the slave master and he handed her the whip. She turned and walked toward the fleet of Unsullied. She began speaking in a tongue I didn't know, the same one that Kraznys spoke. I looked at Jorah who seemed just as surprised as I was. Missandei lips were pressed together in an almost smug smile. Drogon let out a loud screech and spit fire on Kraznys. Seconds later, chaos erupted around us. The Unsullied were killing the slave masters, who were attempting to flee. Daenerys stood stoic in the middle of it all as she watched.
When the screams had finally ceased and the dry dust had begun to settle Daenerys grabbed my arm and led me through the rows of the Unsullied. She didn't say anything and I took a moment to look at the men. They were stronger and faster than any soldiers I had seen before. Daenerys's horse was waiting and she mounted and then offered me a hand to pull me up behind her.
I did not understand what she said next but I when the soldiers started to beat their spears into the ground I understood all I needed to. My sister had her army and no one would be able to stand in her way.
I woke up to Aylward once again shaking my shoulders. "What is it?"
"The Lannister boys, they were murdered."
"Lord Karstark and a few of his men. Robb is having them brought up as we speak."
I got up and dressed quickly. When I exited my chamber I saw the boys on the ground. "Seven hells, they were only children."
"They were vengeance," Lord Karstark snapped as he was pushed through the door.
"For what? They caused no deaths."
"It took five men to murder two unarmed boys," Robb said. "Look at what you've done."
"Tell your mother to look at them, she's the reason they are dead."
"Catelyn made a mistake, you knew precisely what you were doing," I said.
"In war we kill our enemies. You need that lesson as well as her, you had a chance to kill Theon Greyjoy but you left and he burned Winterfell to the ground. How does it feel to know you are the reason your home is gone?"
"You know nothing of me, Lord Karstark. Do not pretend you do."
"You are not a Northerner, you are Southern born through and through and I will not have a Southern whore as my queen," he said spitting on my feet. I slapped him hard and there was silence.
"I may not have the blood of the first men in my veins but I will not hesitate to kill you. I am the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and I will take what is mine." By fire and blood. I almost finished the sentence out loud.
"You may be, but you will have a hard time getting to the Iron Throne if your husband loses the North first," Karstark said with a smirk.
"Hang them all," Robb said. "Except Lord Karstark, escort him to the dungeon."
Once the men had been escorted out, Edmure stepped forward. "Word of this must not leave Riverrun."
"What do you suppose we do then?" I asked sighing.
"Burry them here and keep it quiet until after the war."
"We have no way of knowing when that time will come," I said. I turned to Robb. "What are you planning to do with Lord Karstark?"
"I cannot let murders remain in my ranks, he must be executed."
"You will lose his men, they won't fight for you once they kill their lord," Catelyn said.
"Our men are not disposable," I reminded him. "We need as many men as we can keep."
"Then we will keep what we have after Karstark is dead," Robb said. "Prepare for the execution."
Lord Karstark was brought into the courtyard for the beheading. I waited with Catelyn and Edmure under the overhang safely out of the rain. "Don't want to watch then, your grace?" Karstark yelled across the lawn. I stepped out into the rain, Catelyn grabbed my arm to pull me back but I shook her off. I joined Robb in front of Karstark. "You would like to kill me yourself, wouldn't you? Watch out for this one, she has a bloodlust I didn't know a lady could possess."
"Keel, my lord," Robb said. Rickard knelt over the board.
He looked up at me. "You claim to be the rightful Queen but you are no more than a usurper."
I leaned down by his ear and whispered, "I am the blood of House Targaryen and anyone who dares try and stop me will burn." I turned away and walked back to Catelyn just as Robb chopped of the man's head.
I was riding with Jorah and Ser Barristan along with the fleet of Unsullied. Daenerys had disappeared to meet with the army's commanders and I decided I would just enjoy the scenic ride instead of trying to wake up. Here was better than Riverrun with all the drama of the Karstark army abandoning us.
"How goes it on the Northern front?" Barristan asked.
"Not well. We just lost half our men."
"Some army that will be waiting for us when we arrive," Jorah said.
"Luckily we have a second army then," I said gesturing to the Unsullied. "Why did you leave the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan?" I asked to change the subject.
"King Joffrey tried to kill me, luckily I got away. I've yet to serve a king who I believe in. Aerys, Robert, Joffrey, not one of them was worthy of the crown."
"And what of the other kings, the ones fighting in the war are any of them worthy?" I asked curiously.
"Renly might have been a decent king but his claim was weak at best. Stannis is generally disliked; I wouldn't want him for my king. Robb's father was a great man but Robb is young and impulsive, no offense, my lady."
"None taken, it's true enough."
"Isn't there a fifth king?" He asked.
"Oh some throw Balon Greyjoy into the mix," I informed him.
He snorted. "Why in Seven Hells? Does anyone want him as a king?"
"No one that I know of," I told him.
"What I want to know is if King Robert knew about you," Jorah said. "And if he did why didn't he try and kill you. He tried to kill your sister several times."
"Ned told him, I'm sure. As for why he didn't have me killed, I suppose it was because I wasn't being raised as a Targaryen. The Starks did not even tell me until I was almost ten. I spent years thinking my parents had been soldiers who had died in the war, in a way I guess they were. Robert probably assumed that Eddard wasn't planning on having me take back the throne."
"And now here you are, taking the throne."
"Seeing as the only supposed rightful heir is Stannis Baratheon, the Seven Kingdoms need me."
"I don't understand why anyone would want to be a king or queen really. I wouldn't like the politics," Barristan said.
"Jorah, if you are done gossiping could you come here," Daenerys called. He nodded towards me and Barristan before riding ahead towards her.
"I like to think I'm good at politics, but maybe I'm not."
"You and your sister will have good men by your sides, men with experience."
"Are you suggesting you want to be the Lord Commander of our Queens' Guard? I think you might have competition in Jorah."
"Your grace, I do not think that Jorah would be a good fit for the position. As I'm sure you know, being a Northerner, he was exiled for doing the very thing Daenerys is currently undoing."
"Well, it isn't entirely up to me who joins our High Council and Guard. Even if it was I have my own candidate for the position."
"Who?" He asked.
"My sworn shield. Ser Aylward Caswell, former member of Renly Baratheon's Kingsguard."
"How did you come to have a member of Renly's Kingsguard?"
"Catelyn and I visited the Reach for a short time to make a truce with Renly, shortly before his unfortunate demise. That was when I first began having the dreams about Daenerys. Aylward was to accompany me to Essos to meet her here. When Renly was murdered he refused to pledge loyalty to Stannis and instead followed me North."
"It's a pity what happened to his brothers, they were good men," Barristan said shaking his head slowly.
"I don't believe he's ever spoken of them to me."
"They were attempting to rescue Lyanna Stark from Rhaegar Targaryen. Rhaegar killed them both himself."
"And yet Aylward fights for me."
"He must believe in you. Do you trust him?" He asked.
"With my life."
"Maybe we ought to have two commanders, one for each queen."
"Maybe we ought to." I thought for a moment. "You and my father were close, correct?"
"I wouldn't say anyone was close with the Mad King, but I was Lord Commander then. Why?"
"Do you know which of us was the first born, me or Dany?" I asked.
"Aerys requested you be brought to King's Landing immediately after you were born. He wanted his first born daughter with him, he wanted you with him. Are you already planning a coup?"
I awoke in the middle of the night and noticed that Robb's side of the bed was empty. I slid out of the sheets and walked across the room to the door. The candles still burnt brightly and I pushed the door open slowly. Robb was so immersed in the strategy map he didn't even notice me come in. "Come to bed, the war will still be here come morning."
"I wish it would disappear." He motioned to the map. "Take a look at this, what would you do."
"I'm not a war strategist, I'm a people strategist. I talk to people and I'll fight them, if it's needed."
"All the Lannisters need to do is sit back and watch us fall apart."
"We could ride North, take back our lands and wait for my sister to arrive. She has an army now, they're good men almost supernatural in their strength and loyalty, and they would help us immensely."
"If we let our men come home they will never come back. What we need is to strike now, somewhere they won't expect us to hit."
I glanced at the map; it was easy enough to follow with the statues representing the number of armies stationed in each location. "Casterly Rock."
"We'll need men to replace the Karstarks," Robb said. "You said it yourself; you know how to talk to people. You can make the Frey's side with us."
"Walder Frey of the twins? The one we promised he could wed one of his daughters to Bran? We have nothing left to give him now."
"We have Edmure."
I smiled. "Yes, we do. I think that I might be able to work up some sort of truce that could be beneficial to us both."