Three dragons circled a fleet of ships in the distance, the ships flying Targaryen banners. Toten stood on the bow of his flagship, Stonebreaker, studying the distant fleet, assessing the numbers rapidly. He stepped down to Robrik and Gabby waiting for him.
“We need to land first. If we can get to the castle first, we can hold it and the beaches. Balerion the Black burned Harrenhal, but those dragons are not Balerion. It will take them time, time that we can use.”
Gabby studied her husband carefully and nodded. “I’ll get to my ship,” she said. She stepped close to Toten and leveled her voice at him. “I’ll see you soon, Toten.” It was not a question, but an order.
Toten nodded and Gabby was ferried off to her own ship, the Dragons already waiting. Toten returned to the bow with Robrik, his eyes darting over the enemies, always studying for the advantage. Over the water a faint roar echoed past the waves. “Get the men, prepared, Robrik,” Toten ordered. “We’re going to hit hard and fast.”
Toten leaped over the gunwale of the ship as it crashed its way up onto the beach. He landed heavily but rose quickly, Shatterstone already in hand. The doors built into the ship crashed open and Toten was joined swiftly by his kingsguard, swords drawn and together they charged up the beach, slaying the ironmen that rushed down at them from the hills, Toten always in front. The boy that had first come to Pyke was gone, and in his place was a man, intent on reclaiming all that was taken from him on those beaches all those years ago.
Toten stared across the land on Pyke at ten thousand men, many dothraki and unsullied slave soldiers. More crowded on scores of ships still out to sea. Behind him, his own forces gathered, formed into perfect formation to counter any sudden attacks. A small part trotted forward with a banner of parlay. Toten turned to Robrik. The old knight’s mouth was set in a hard line as he looked over the enemy. He would never say anything, but Toten knew what the lord commander was thinking, he’d grown up studying that face.
Toten spurred Thorn forward, his kingsguard, Oberyn, and Robb Stark following. As they met, the knights across from them removed their helms, revealing Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Jorah Mormont.
“Lord Lanncaster,” Ser Barristan said. “It’s been some time.”
“Yes it has,” Toten said in measured tones. He respected few men more than the former commander of the kingsguard, but the man sat in front of an opposing army. One that threatened his kingdom and whose leader was blackmailing Lons.
“There’s no need for any senseless death here,” Selmy said plainly, spreading his arms to take in all the surrounding forces. “We have not come to fight a war against you, as our letters should have related to you.”
“Are you proposing a cessation of hostilities?”
The old knight nodded. “You’ll remove your ships from the docks. Those who are landed may remain,” Toten said, mind still focused on potential battles. He would not be caught unaware by this other Targaryen’s forces. Selmy considered for a moment and spoke. “It will be done.”
Toten inclined his head. “Then we have terms.”
“I believe I should lead the khaleesi’s forces through the gate first,” Ser Jorah said, the group looking towards the gate of Pyke where the unsullied hurled rams against it.
Lord Stark approached from Toten’s other side. “I should lead the attack,” the boy said. “It was my father who won the last battle here, it should be I who does so this time, especially since Sansa was forced to marry that beast.”
“Victarion Greyjoy was killed by Ser Jorah some days ago,” Selmy spoke. “Your sister is quite well back on the ships. As is the lady Tyene.” Toten saw his generals stiffen as their loved ones’ names were mentioned. Victarion slain, Toten brooded. His fist clenced tightly. I had hoped to meet him here. To settle all of this. And of course they would levy hostages against us. But they have one other one as well. Lons…
“I will lead the attack,” Toten said, his voice commanding authority. His eyes drilled into Selmy. “I have unfinished business on this island. I failed here as a boy. I will not do so again.”
Selmy met his gaze with a steely resolve. “As you will, Lord Toten.”
Shatterstone sang with the tune of battle, ringing as Toten marched through the castle, slaying those ironborn who found themselves in front of him. Blood sprayed over his armor as he parried and swung, tearing a swathe through the castle. He sprinted onto the first drawbridge as the ironborn tried to lower it, but Toten made his way into the guardhouse befor they could cut the ropes, his sword cutting through their bodies first. His kingsguard swarmed after him, each white cloak stained red as they tore quickly to the next drawbridge, stringing up ropes of their own to rush their way across.
Toten led the way towards the hall where the seastone chair awaited. His knights were close behind, as were Selmy, Jorah, and their soldiers. The few remaining soldiers they encountered either yielded quickly or were cut down.
Toten rounded the last corner and saw Gabby, wiping blood from her daggers before sheathing them. Blood ran from several cuts across her face and bare arms. At her feet was the man who could only have been Euron Crows-Eye, a mangled mess of a wound where his one eye should have been.
The king rushed into the room and up to Gabby. “Gabby, are you all right? You’re bleeding.” The queen started to reassure her husband as Toten began to look around the room. His eyes found Lons’ familiar face standing only a few paces away. “Lons,” Toten cried. “Lons, help Gabby, she’s been hurt…”
Toten’s eyes widened and turned back towards the man he had not seen in almost five years. “…Lons?…”
Toten and Gabby stood on one side of the room, the knights of the kingsguard, the hand of the queen, several of her Dragons, and the warden of the north behind them.
Across from them stood Danyers Targaryen, Maester Lons, Selmy, Jorah, and several of the woman’s soldiers.
Toten looked in shock over his friend’s face. It was much the same as he remembered it. Memories flooded him as he looked him over. His gaze shifted to the woman and his mouth set in a firm scowl, teeth clenched painfully. I won’t let her dig her claws into him any longer. Lons is back where he should be now, and no force in westeros will let her spin her lies any further, dragons or not.
Toten extended a hand out towards Lons. “Lons,” he said, voice dripping with relief and the pain of absence. “It’s ok, Lons. She can’t hold you any longer. You’re back, Lons. Finally back. Come home, brother.”
Lons didn’t move from his position. His mouth moved in a strained way, as if something were fighting its way out of him. Toten’s eyes narrowed in confusion. Why didn’t Lons come over? He couldn’t be afraid of her warriors, not with Toten there. Why after so long didn’t Lons come to him?
“I…can’t, Toten,” Lons managed after a moment. “I sent the letter…I’ve come a long way with Dany, and I can’t leave her now, but I have missed you, my friend.”
Toten’s mind raced back to the letter he had crumpled in his hands some weeks before. He shook his head, not wanting to believe. “But it was all lies,” he said meekly. “Wasn’t it?”
Lons dropped his head. “It was the truth, Toten.”
“You…you serve her?”
Toten felt as though a blow struck him hard, deep in his core, piercing the solid protection of his armor to settle deep in his heart, a gaping wound like none he’d ever felt before in any battle he’d ever fought. It threatened to stagger him on the spot.
A mask dropped over Toten’s face as the betrayal washed over him. His teeth clenched and his eyes darted to the horrid woman standing next to Lons. She had taken him away, sunk her foul claws into Lons and pulled him away with the allure of her dragons, using them as leverage, something Toten would never have, to keep them apart.
His eyes locked back on Lons, anger making his hands shake as they reached towards the crown on his head. He plucked it off. “Here,” Toten snarled at Lons, baring his teeth. “Take it,” he threw the crown to the ground at Lons’ feet. “It means nothing now.” Toten whirled and stalked toward the door where several of her men stood. His hand twitched at his sword, waiting for a reason. “Get the fuck out of my way!” he roared, shoving his way past them.
Toten stumbled through the halls of Pyke, hands grabbing at his hair, breath coming in quick gasps as he staggered away from the throne room. He let out small streams of curses in between gasps. He shouldered his way into a room and found it filled with items. He looked at it for a moment, panting.
A wordless roar erupted from his throat as he picked up a desk and smashed it against the wall, shattering it and dozens of things on it. His fists punched through glass and wood, feet kicked through tools and doors. “No!” he yelled, breaking a chair over the hearth. “I don’t care how many dragons she has!” More yells mixed with sobs broke through until Toten found he couldn’t see through the tears welled up in his eyes.
A voice spoke up behind him. “You feel better now, boy?” Toten turned, trying to blink away the tears and saw Ser Robrik come into focus. “How could he, Robrik? He was my brother…” The old knight sighed. “He’s been gone a long time, Toten. He’s seen things we can’t even dream of. But just because he has new friends, it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about his old ones, or what that friendship means.”
“You remember what it was like for me after the last time I returned from this place. How I was. It was Lons coming to Rockfall…he saved me, Robrik.”
“I know, boy. You each followed your own path. But sometimes different paths can lead to the same castle, Toten.” Robrik waited for a response that did not come, before turning and walking from the room, closing the door behind him.
Toten sat at one of the less damaged desks in the room, on the one chair he’d missed in his destruction, staring intently at the wood grain, picking pieces of shattered glass out of it, pondering how he had come so far only to have it all cut out from under him. He hadn’t left the room for two days. Gabby had had meals brought up to him, but it largely remained untouched save for the wine, which he had much of.
From out in the hallway a clicking sound grew louder, like a specter straight from his past. He could hear his father’s heavy footsteps echoing down the corridor, the swish of his cloak against the dusty floor. The haunting noise stopped for a moment before several sharp raps came at the door. Toten stiffened and the now crooked desk creaked.
“Toten,” came Lons’ voice. “It’s Lons.” Toten scowled, trying not to make any more noise. “I know who it is,” Toten said gruffly. There was a pause. “Toten,” Lons pleaded. “Please talk with me.”
Toten waited again, not sure what to say or do, emotions running through his mind.
“It’s not barred, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said, his voice rough and haggard. He heard the door creak open without looking up. The clack of Lons’ cane filled the room as he came over and Toten heard the bed groan wearily as Lons sat on it.
“It’s been a long time, Lons,” Toten said thickly, the words heavy on his tongue.
“It has,” Lons said, cautiously. “I’ve thought of you and your family each day since I’ve left.”
“I’ve never felt so wounded, Lons. I’ve taken blows, terrible ones through this war.” Toten turned a pained face towards Lons, his eyes red and face unkempt. “None have been so bad as this. When I see you with her…”
“I may be serving Dany now, my friend. But I have never forgotten our friendship.”
Toten stood suddenly and Lons jumped slightly. The taller man walked to the window and gazed out at the frost covered island below him. “The last time I came back from this island, Lons… I was broken. I never told anyone before, Lons, but…you were the one who helped bring me back from that.”
“Do you remember why I left westeros in the first place? It was to protect you. You, Gabby, the children. I did it for you.” Lons sighed deeply. “The iron throne, all of that bullshit…none of that matters compared to our friendship.”
Toten looked out the window as a tear rolled down into his coarse beard, the cold wind biting against it. He wanted to rage against Lons, to cast him from the room, curse this new woman, call them enemies, and be free of him forever. Toten turned from the window, ready to declare his anger. But his eyes didn’t see an enemy before him. They saw Lons, standing softly, his shoulders slumped humbly, eyes shadowed with a gloomy tension. He saw the brother he had left in King’s Landing. The brother he had grown with in Rockfall. Toten Lanncaster saw a friend, old and true. A weight fell from him, the rage and hurt fading like snow melting in spring, leaving only the deep love and friendship that had been with him since the beginning.
Toten brought his hand forward, a timid smile twitching the corners of his mouth. Lons took his hand. “It’s good to have you back,” Toten said softly. “Brother.”
Lons smiled, relief coloring his features. “You too, Toten. In fact…I brought something for you from Essos.” The maester stepped out of the door and quickly returned, bearing a large metal object. He turned it and held it out to Toten, revealing a magnificently crafted shield that bore a large rock in the middle, cracking out through the rest of the metal.
Toten’s mouth opened as he took it gingerly. It was surprisingly light in his hands as he inspected it. “It’s incredible, Lons. It’s…”
“Valyrian steel,” Lons said. “I made it for you.” Toten was awestruck, speechless. He strapped the shield on and gawked. Lons waited a moment and then turned to leave.
The maester turned back and Toten swept him into a crushing embrace, years missed friendship shared between them. They parted, Toten with a wide smile on his face. Lons turned again to leave and opened the door. Ser Robrik stood in the doorway, arms crossed.
“You boys feel better now, do you?” The two younger men exchanged a look and turned back to Robrik, trying unsuccessfully to contain grins. Robrik grunted. “That’s what I thought. Now get moving. There’s work to do.”
Toten strode down the halls of Pyke. His face was cleaned and trimmed. He wore a smooth doublet of dark green and deep gold. His new shield was slung over his back, over the rough fur of the shadowcat cloak, Shatterstone hanging from his hip, crown sitting low on his head.
The doors of the meeting room swung open with a mighty groan and creak. Toten stood framed in the doorway as all heads turned his way. His wife smiled at him in that way she had. Toten strode forward into the room, head held high, and took the seat at the head of the table. He inclined his head towards the woman at his left. “Lady Danerys.” The mother of dragons nodded back with a small smile. “Lord Lanncaster.”
“What’s this?” Gabby asked, holding up a small, beaten package as she and her husband packed to leave Pyke.
“I’m not sure,” Toten said, taking it from her. “I must have missed it when I was cleaning up.”
“Well open it, you fool,” Gabby said, playfully pushing on Toten’s arm. Toten sat in one of the chairs and pulled off the small strings that held the package together, opening it gingerly. A dark green rock greeted him and Toten removed it, studying it. It was cut in the shape of a mountain, tall and imposing. Toten set it on the desk and looked beneath it. Numerous glass jars sat in the bottom of the box. Toten pulled one out and looked at the label. ‘Pepper – Dorne.’ He took out the next. ‘Juniper – Lys.’ On and on it went. ‘Saffron – Volantis,’ ‘Paprika – Qarth,’ ‘Anise – Yunkai,’ ‘Basil – Astapor,’ ‘Sage – Mereen,’ ‘Cinnamon – Yi Ti,’ ‘Mint – Asshai.’ Each label was written in Lons’ hand and with each new jar Toten felt new tears roll down his cheeks.
Toten stood on the bow of another ship, sailing back east, Lons close by. In the distance the coast of westeros was beginning to take shape. Toten put a hand on Lons’ shoulder. “Can you see it, Lons?”
“I can. Lannisport.”
“No, Lons,” Toten said, a purposeful tone to his voice. “Home.”
Preparations were well underway for Lons’ wedding to Tyene. Casterly Rock had all but been transformed by the Targaryen women and their cohorts, flowers and meals being brought in from as far away as Dorne. Toten did his best to stay out of their way, but made it his job to see to security, a task that Lons was also passionate about.
Toten walked back towards his chambers, looking to avoid another job from Gabby. He opened the door to his chambers and found Danerys folding up several cloths on the desk. “Oh,” Toten started. “Lady Danerys. My apologies.”
“No need for apologies, Lord Toten. These are your chambers after all. I’m just here to collect some fabric for your wife.”
Toten stood awkwardly as Danerys gathered the cloth and moved toward the door. She reached for the handle on the oaken door. “Lady Danerys,” Toten called. The Targaryen turned to face him.
Toten gathered his thoughts, still unsure of his feelings towards the woman.. “My lady,” he began. “I don’t know what will happen in the future, but know that my duty is to this realm. If there is a threat to it, I will do all in my power to stop it.” Across from him, the mother of dragons nodded her head. “That being said,” Toten continued. “If there is to be a war, you’re going to need me. You may have dragons, but I know these lands. I know its people. I know what they’ll fight for and how far I can push them, how to raise them against an enemy. You need to understand this. I’ve fought a war here for five years and I can command these people.” He looked hard into her eyes, studying them. “If we go into battle and I give an order, you need to follow it. If you do not, it could mean the difference between winning and losing. And if what you say is true…we can not afford to lose.”
Danerys raised her eyebrows as Toten spoke, looking like no one had ever spoken to her in such a way before. Slowly, she nodded. “I understand, Lord Toten,” she said carefully. “I know how to follow orders when I need to.” Toten bobbed his head and Danerys took her leave, leaving Toten alone with thoughts of the future.
Toten walked down the corridors of Casterly Rock, his armor freshly polished for Lons’ wedding, a small parcel under one arm, his cloak rustling against the floor. He reached the chambers that Lons had been using and raised his hand. He let out a heavy sigh and rapped three times on the door. The door swung open and Toten faced Lons, dressed in the strange robes he had worn since arriving in Westeros, though they were freshly cleaned. The maester invited him in and Toten stepped over the threshold. Danerys was sitting at a small desk near the window. “Lady Danerys,” Toten said, surprised to see her. He looked between her and Lons. “I can return if this is a bad time.”
“No, not at all,” Danerys said, standing. “I can leave if you require privacy.”
“You can stay, Lady Danerys,” Toten said, looking towards Lons. “There’s no need for you to leave.” “What’s going on, Toten?” Lons asked him.
Toten set the parcel on a table and opened it as he began to speak. “I know you’re having a red priest at the ceremony, but you know we have westrosi traditions as well. I had the tailor prepare a few things. I wasn’t sure…I…” he stammered, eyes flitting between the other two. “I didn’t know if perhaps you needed a cloak for the ceremony. I have this,” he said, laying out a cloak with the white chevron and sun over red of house Ashford. “Or I wasn’t sure if…if it was…” he trailed off as he laid down a second cloak, the sigil of house Lanncaster bright upon it. “Or I thought perhaps if those were not acceptable, that perhaps,” he reached up and unclasped his shadowcat cloak, holding it before him.
A smile brightened Lons’ face as he slowly extended his hand towards the shadowcat cloak. “It’s the only thing from home that I have,” Toten said softly. “Thank you, Toten,” Lons said, taking the cloak in one hand. He handed his cane to Toten as he began to fasten the cloak on.
Toten gazed at the wooden cane in his hands. The top was that of a dragon. But the dark wood was familiar to him, it had come from a dark sycamore that grew just above the castle at Rockfall. His father’s cane. The one he had given Lons after his injury. Toten lost himself in memories as he looked at the cane, feeling its weight in his hands and the smooth edges his father had crafted.
He looked up to see Lons in the cloak, reaching out his hand for the cane. “Thank you, my friend,” Lons said, taking the cane and making his way from the room, the click of the cane fading down the hallway.
“He never lost it, you know,” Danerys’ voice came softly from Toten’s side. “Not through sea voyages or battles, or riding dragons. He always kept it with him.” Toten nodded stiffly, not trusting himself to speak, lest his voice betray the tears that threatened him. Danerys smiled gently as she picked up the cloak emblazoned with the rock of Lanncaster. She reached her hands up to Toten’s shoulders and clasped the cloak there on each shoulder from behind him slowly. She moved around in front of him and smoothed the cloak over his armor with gently precision. Toten looked down at her as she did. Lons had befriended this woman he thought. If she was good enough for him, that was more than enough for Toten. Danerys finished her work and stood back, turning to leave the room.
“Danerys…” The mother of dragons turned back to the lord of Rockfall.
Toten held out his arm with a smile. “Shall we, my lady?” Dany returned his smile and slid her arm through his and together they left the room, eager to share in their friendship of Lons, and ready to forge a new friendship of their own.