Natan watched as the remaining men from Westeros formed ranks on the field below him. So few. Not enough for what was coming.
He could just make out the haze on the horizon of Harkto’s horde, of his tens upon tens of thousands, coming down the Kingsroad to take the kingdom. They would arrive soon.
Natan had made sure of it. He had rode to meet Harkto and his horde. Alone. Everyone had told him it was foolish, but Natan was past their advice. He had called out Harkto to his face and it had worked, and now the doom of Westeros was marching towards them.
Natan sat astride his horse. There were no generals left to lead for him. No veterans of the old wars to plan his strategies. He could rely on nothing but himself and his instinct now. And his hope.
Natan burst out of the tent and stalked towards the woods off the road to Lannisport, his father not far behind him.
“Natan! Natan stop!”
Natan whirled. “What? Did you follow me to tell me that if I ever do decide to take the crown, that it wouldn’t do anyone any good, just like the rest of them?”
“Son,” Toten began, halting as he caught up to his child under the cover of the trees. “I don’t understand. I’ve always been there to help you as much as I could. I’ve tried to teach you what I can so you can be ready. You’re my son.”
“You know,” Natan said, shaking his head. “Being your son? It hasn’t been as easy as you think it is. People see me but they think of you and all you’ve done and how I haven’t done anything. Now, with me getting older, it’s getting worse than ever.”
“Why? You have plenty of skills, Natan.”
“Like my house name?” Natan scoffed. “That’s the only reason people deign to talk to me anyways. With all this pressure about making me King soon, it’s just going to end up bad for everyone.”
“You think I want something bad for you,” Toten asked incredulously. “That I want you to be unhappy?”
“In a way, yes,” Natan replied.
“Natan, that is the last thing that I want.”
“I know that’s not what you’d like,” Natan said, exasperated. “But that’s what’s going to happen. Don’t you…don’t you care what people are going to say? That people will make me out to be a terrible king and that you and mother and the house are going to be included in that?” His voice rose. “Do you want that? Do you?”
Toten sighed heavily, his shoulders slumping slightly. It was a moment before he answered. He held up one of his large, worn hands.
“Did you know that I could once hold you in one hand, just like this?” Toten began as his son rolled his eyes slightly. “I would hold you with your mother. I would tell her ‘our son is going to be the best person in this world, better than anyone we have ever known.’ And you grew in the home of my fathers. I loved watching you, as often as I could. You were something else, being no one but yourself and not letting that not be enough.
“But at some point,” Toten continued. “You changed. You stopped being yourself. You let all the voices around you get in your head and tell you that you weren’t any good. And things got harder, so you wanted something to blame. Something like a shadow cast by someone else.
“I’ll tell you something that you should already know. This world we live in is not all sun and blue skies,” Toten kept speaking, his voice starting to crack with fresh memories of old wounds. “It’s a very cold and dangerous place and I don’t care who you are or how well prepared you think you are, it will beat you down to your knees and it will keep you there for your whole life if you allow it.
“Not you, or I, or anyone we know is going to strike at you as hard as this world. But it’s not about the blows you land. It’s about the blows you can take! It’s how hard of a strike you can take and keep coming toward it,” Toten continued urgently. “That’s the way that you win! If you know what you can do, then go do it! But you have to be willing to bear the weight and not shift the blame and say that you can’t be what you can because of anything! That’s what a craven does and that is not you! You’re better than that!”
Toten paused, breathing heavily. “I will always love you, no matter what happens. You are my son. My blood. You and your sister are the best things that I have in my life, Natan. But if you cannot believe in you, then you will not have a life of your own.”
Toten turned and walked back towards the encampment. Natan stalked off towards his own tent, the distant lights of Lannisport twinkling in the night.
I believe in myself now, Natan thought. I have to. For everyone.
The horde had moved in to position and was preparing to attack. So many of them.
King Natan Lanncaster turned his horse towards his men and unsheathed his sword.
“Men of Westeros,” Natan called out, trying to reach his voice to everyone there. “This is our time. Now! There is no other. Those monsters there are going to try and push through us. They want your land. Your families. They want to burn down everything that we are. But we aren’t going to let them. Not while we still have something to say about it. They may outnumber us, but we are men of Westeros!”
He looked over his troops.
“Let’s go kick their asses!”
The men’s voices rose in a yell that carried their challenge to the dothraki, signaling the start of the battle.
Natan rode quickly up the small hill at the back of his formations, able to see the entirety of the battle. Gabrella waited for him there, along with his other surprises.
And then the fighting began.
Natan began to issue commands, wheeling troops into defensive formations against the immediate rush of Harkto’s screamers. Thousands died on the first pass. Harkto had much more experience and manpower, and Natan fought to keep up with every order.
His commanders on the hill shifted nervously near the metal tubes they were tasked with. “Your Grace?”
“Not yet.” Natan yelled, barking out another command as dothraki archers began to pepper his front lines.
Jhakara was out there. Natan had to time everything just right. If she didn’t get the right chance, then everything was for naught anyways.
“Natan?” Toten Wyl pressed nervously, near his king.
Natan yelled out another command, condensing his front lines, drawing in Harkto’s forces as they looked for the easy kill.
Natan scanned the battlefield, looking at formation positions, his mind racing over maps and plans and how they had sighted in their new weapons.
“NOW!” King Natan bellowed. “FIRE!”
Deafening booms rang out from the top of the hill as an array of cannons opened fire for the first time. They tore into Harkto’s forces and stunned the entire dothraki army.
If Jhakara was going to have any chance at all, this was it.
“FIRE ALL! FIRE AT WILL!” the King yelled as more explosions drowned out the last of his words. He looked over at Toten Wyl and nodded. His friend leaped into his saddle and took off down the hill into the battle.
Natan ran to where Not Horse was chained near him and kicked out the steel pin holding the dragon in place. “Skoriot uja,” he panted. “Find her.” The dragon flashed past faster than Natan thought possible and dove into the fray.
Natan jumped onto Gabrella. The massive dragon rose and let out a roar that overtook even the cannon blasts and they took to the air, diving down at the massive battle, Natan holding tightly as he spoke. “Drakarys.”
He knew when it happened. It was something he could feel in his bones. Jhakara had succeeded at her mission. Harkto was dead. Natan could only hope that she would get out before the rest of the army devoured her.
In the meantime, he still had tens of thousands of dothraki to deal with, and his own forces were beginning to wear thin. Even with Harkto dead, they could still lose this battle.
A strange horn sounded and Natan wheeled Gabrella around to face it. He let out a loud cheer as he saw his final gambit pay off.
Over a ridge to the west, a large mustering came down into the battlefield, their banners bearing the odd shapes of Asshai. And right at the front next to the emperor’s sigil was a bright pink banner, flying high among the rest, an oddly phallic symbol on it. As he saw it, Natan knew that Francois had pulled through.
The battle didn’t last long after the arrival of Asshai, and soon the dothraki that were left headed for whatever hills and holes they could find.
Natan flew Gabrella back to the hill where he could see Toten and Jhakara huddled together as a number of people converged on them. Gabrella landed heavily and King Natan dismounted, rushing immediately to an embrace with Jhakara.
“You did it!” he exclaimed, though his time to celebrate was swiftly cut short.
“Your Grace, step back from the traitor! We’ll execute her immediately!”
“You’ll do no such thing,” the king said, stepping between Jhakara and his Kingsguard and assorted council members. He injected as much authority into his voice as he could, allowing it to drip like venom from his words, daring anyone to question them. Now was the moment that would define his rule, for good or bad.
“Jhakara was under my orders to infiltrate the enemy forces and take down their leader. Her seeming attack on me was part of a plan concocted in secret in order to win this war. All actions she has taken since leaving King’s Landing are my responsibility, and mine alone. I will hear nothing of her or her family being traitors in my kingdom. Any soul who wants to believe otherwise will answer to me and my throne.”
He left the words hanging in the air like a mist, allowing the impact of it to soak into everyone gathered there.
After a long moment, Natan broke the tense silence.
“Now, if I’m not mistaken, we just won a war,” the King said, cracking a charming smile. “I believe there is a celebration in order.”
King Natan Lanncaster sat astride his horse, plodding along the Goldroad into the sunset, the sound of hooves and wagons creaking gently stirring the warm summer air.
“So, what do you think is going to happen now?” Toten Wyl asked from the horse to his right.
“It’s been weeks since the battle,” Arya said from Natan’s other side. “No khal’s have taken control of the army. Not in any real numbers anyways.”
A grunt of acknowledgement sounded from Jhakara, next to Toten on Horse. “Most khal’s killed in war. Now dothraki will fight each other for many moons before any new ko’s appear. They will not be strong though.”
Toten Wyl looked between them all. “So, what do you think is going to happen now?” he repeated.
Natan leaned back in his saddle, creaking the leather. He looked around at his closest friends and could just barely see the distant twinkling fires of Lannisport in the fading light.
“Well,” he said as his face broke into a wide, genuine smile. “Let’s just see where the next adventure takes us.”