A Song of Rock and Fire

Natan Lanncaster's Journal 18

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.

“Not yet!”

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.”

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Natan Lanncaster's Journal 17

“Your Grace?”

Natan’s thoughts were locked in possibilities, longing flashes of fleeting hope that danced just outside his grasp when he made to grab at them.

“Your Grace?”

Natan snapped up from his reverie and back to reality. Months had passed since Jakhara had betrayed him. Reports came in regularly about her activities. Raids, men killed by silent arrows. None could confirm it officially, but it all pointed at Jakhara.

Natan sighed. He told his lies as best he could and locked himself away when he couldn’t. It tore him apart but he shouldered it. He had to. His other plan was underway as well, had been for just as long, and he only hoped he’d gotten the timing right.

He looked up to find Willem and Brod before him.

“Your Grace,” Willem began. “We’d like your permission to lead a raid to find and take out the traitor, Jakhara.”

Show time, Natan thought, shifting in his throne.

“I think the dragons would be better suited to taking out more promising targets than focusing all their attention on one woman,” he said, inflecting as much command into his voice as he could.

Willem relented, but Brod stood firm. “Your Grace,” the big man growled. “I trained that girl. I watched her fight. And she stabbed me in the back. I’ll be going after her. Alone if it must needs be.”

Natan eyed him carefully. He had to protect Jakhara as much as he could, but he couldn’t give her away. “She will be dealt with, Brod. A traitor will get their punishment. Let her watch as we take away the people she ran back to. Then she’ll know what it means.”

It took him a moment but the tall man nodded and stepped away, him and Willem both taking long glances to the side of the throne room. Natan followed their gaze to Toten Wyl, whose head was dropped in shame.

Natan hurried down hallways towards the stables. One of his wife’s handmaidens had come to him in the night, to tell hi she had seen Toten Wyl preparing his horse.

Natan found his oldest friend tightening the straps on the saddle, armored fully, his spear already slung on the beast.

“Where are you going, Toten?”

Toten paused, looking at Natan’s silhouette in the entrance. “I’m going to go out there and find her. I’m going to either go out there and find my wife or I’m going out there to kill and bring back a traitor.”

“Step away from the horse, Toten.”

“I’m going, Natan.”

“I can’t let you do that.”

Toten flared. “You can’t? You can’t! I’ve seen how people have been looking at me, I can feel it! She slept next to me every night and now this? You’ve been my best friend since before we could walk, but get out of my way, Natan.”

The emotion flared in the king before he could control it. The months of hiding and lying bubbled up in him and he pushed Toten back roughly. “I can’t! I can’t because I sent her out there and now she’s the only hope we might have at actually winning this thing!”

Toten’s mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. “W-what?”

Natan looked around. “Not here.” He grabbed Toten and led him back into the castle, deep into dark tunnels. Again, he reiterated what he had done.

“You sent her out there to die!” Toten yelled at him.

“I sent her out there because I didn’t have a choice!” Natan yelled back. “I’m trying to save the whole country and she’s the only one who could get close enough to do it!”

The punch hit him fast and hard, dropping Natan to the ground. He put a hand to his jaw, wincing at the pain.

“I’m sorry,” Natan said calmly. “But I had to do it. And I’m telling you now because someone needs to know. If anything happens to me, then someone knows and maybe you can find her and get away…” He shook his head. “I’m cracking, Toten. It’s getting to be too much.”

Toten pulled his friend back to his feet. “I get it, Natan. I guess. I’m not happy about it, but I know why you did it.”

Natan nodded and gripped his friend. The lies had been building and telling someone made it feel like a dam had broken and released a flood of relief. He had someone he could confide in, someone to share his secret. And someone who might be able to save Jakhara when the time came.

Things were coming to a head. The passes to the west had held, though to call it a victory would almost be a lie. There weren’t enough men left to make up a dinner party after the fighting had stopped.

And Tommen Lannister was dead. It was Jakhara, and everyone knew it, proof or not. Natan had spent hours locked away, thinking of the tens of thousands of men he had killed by making his choice. Saving the country wouldn’t mean much without anyone left in it.

All reports indicated that the loss had forced Harkto to turn south, and King’s Landing was the next, and probably last battle that would decide the war for all.

It was time.

Natan had sent his father to Casterly Rock. It was the only way Elia would relent and keep herself from going off to die. Natan had sat in his throne and ordered his father away at the crucial time when he most wanted to lean on him, but he needed Elia on a dragon more than he needed his father in his corner. He’d heard the murmurs as he had used his father’s full name and title, he had seen the flare of sadness in the elder man’s eyes. But he also saw the flash of pride before they turned away. He was truly standing on his own now.

And he was going to fight.

So many of them had given up hope, even his own sister. But Natan would not. Determination had seized him, it had driven the fatigue from him and brought a fire to his actions.

He was going to call out Harkto. If it was going to be there end, then Natan would have them make such a stand that Harkto would have nothing left to crush. He would go out and fight them, even if he had to do it alone.

The king marched from the Red Keep and began giving orders, calling every last soul that could be mustered to the capital.

They were going to fight.

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Natan Lanncaster's Journal 16

The wind from Gabrella’s wings beat down, rustling the leaves of the weirwood trees on the Isle of Faces. Below, Natan could see the boat made of bones resting on the opposite side of the island. He landed and stepped out into the clearing in the center of the island.

Across from him stood the most monstruous person he’d ever seen.

And Natan recognized him.

Harkto had been a big man, a warrior in the dothraki horde. He fought hard and without mercy like most of their kind, but there was a streak of cruelty in Harkto that few of his kin shared. Now he was even larger, dead skin sliding eerily over smooth muscle, and Natan could feel in his bones that his cruelty had grown along with his stature.

There were many times when Harkto had sought to end Natan and his friends during their journies with the horde. He had not hidden his contempt for the westrosi. Only his half sister had stopped him. Jakhara.

Harkto’s gray eyes tracked Natan as he made his way through the clearing. The Khal of khals grinned, revealing rows and rows of sharpened teeth.

“We meet again, Natan Lanncaster,” Harkto growled, his deep voice lingering over vowels.

“You look a bit worse for wear since last time, Harkto,” Natan called back, careful to remain out of reach.

“I have been granted certain gifts from the great blood lords in the east,” he drawled. “And now I will use them to burn down your sunset kingdom.” He raised his hand and Natan could feel his blood begin to race, sweat beginning to form on his forehead.

“What is it that you want,” Natan asked, cutting through Harkto’s show. “What will it take for you to leave my lands.”

Again, Harkto grinned his shark grin. “Bow before me,” he spoke slowly. “Offer me your head and I will take it from you, and when my forces march across the ashes of your home, I will make sure there is a place for your son at my side. Perhaps I will even spare him from pain as I rule from atop the crushed bones of your people.”

Natan scowled as best he could and considered whistling for Gabrella to burn him where he stood, but his honor kept him from doing it. Barely.

“I’ll see you on the battlefield then,” Natan said, turning and striding away.

“Oh, and one last thing you should remember, Harkto,” Natan snarled, turning back. “I am a dragon. My blood runs hot.”

Natan flew high over the battle astride Gabrella. Below lay tens of thousands of dead men. The dragons had filled their purpose, breathing fire and blood down on the dothraki, yet Natan didn’t dare get too far from his troops on the ground lest he lose the ability to command them. The spearmen had held well for some time, but the endless thousands of screamers were beginning to batter them down. Natan knew they would not hold much longer.

Even the dragons were starting to feel ill effects. Natan had put faith in the old addage that you didn’t kill a dragon in the air, but it seemed the maesters of old had not seen tens of thousands of arrows fired at a single creature before. Elia and his Aunt Danaerys were faring well across the field, but Natan could see that Rhaegal was becoming agitated. He flew in formation with Gabrella fair enough, but with no rider helping him he was making fitful maneuvers.

Natan gave the signal to wheel around and ordered his men to retreat. As he flew over what was left of his forces he saw that he had lost thousands. The dothraki had lost many more, but Natan’s reserves would deplete far more quickly than Harkto’s. His supply was nearly endless.

Natan lay awake for several nights. Sleep would not come, no matter how much he courted it.

He would not win.

Could not.

Harkto had made too many swift moves, had cut him off from decisive moves. There weren’t enough men. Not enough food.

And now Natan knew there was no hope of victory.

Natan pulled on his robe quietly, so not to disturb Arya or young Jon. He padded out into the halls and through the Red Keep, careful not to be seen. There were few awake in the castle at this hour, but he had to be sure. He shortly made his way to Jakhara and Toten’s chambers.

He nudged Jakhara awake silently. Toten was a heavy sleeper and Natan had learned how to be quiet in his years abroad. He motioned her to put on her leathers and led her through the castle.

Deeper they went, the flickering light of torches getting farther and farther apart. In a dark hall, they finally stopped.

Natan felt a heaviness on his chest, his words weighted by them and when he spoke they seemed to fall like lead weights, shattering on the rough hewn rocks aound them.

“Jakhara…I need you to do something for me.”

Her dark eyes searched Natan’s face, wondering.

“I need you to go to him. I need you to go to his side.” Natan watched as he reacted. Surprise and shock followed but suspicion.

“I can’t win this Jakhara. I cannot beat this man. I can’t. This is the only way. I need you to go and get close to him. Do what you need to do and when the time comes…”

“…I need you to kill him.”

“Can he even be killed,” she questioned.

Natan’s stomach rolled. “I don’t know.”

He watched the realization in her eyes. That this could be a suicide mission. That even if she were to succeed, she would be in the middle of the entire dothraki army. Her expression was somber as she looked back at him.

“I’m going to go up against him with everything. I’ll find a way to turn his head long enough for you to have your chance. And then,” his voice hardened into something strong. “I’m going to come get you. I’m going to come get you, Jakhara.”

She met his eyes with a serious gaze for a long moment before nodding.

“There’s one last thing,” Natan said. “It has to be real. You’re going to have to do things, fight against us, kill westrosi.” The weight on his chest has turned to a vice and was slowly crushing him. “But you have to do it.” He emphasized each word. “It has to be real.”

Jakhara looked off further into the castle after a moment, towards where her chambers were. Natan shook his head softly. “No one can know, Jakhara. It has to be now. You’ll find Horse saddled and ready in the north stables. Take the Street of Looms straight on the Flea Bottom and then cut through Gin Alley. There’s a sally port five blocks up from the Iron Gate that will be unguarded. Do you understand?”

She nodded.

“Good.” Natan took a deep breath. “KINGSGUARD!!!”

“Shoot me, Jakhara,” he said quickly.

Her eyes stared in shock at him.

“It has to be real,” Natan said again, pleading. Already they could hear the clanging footsteps of armor running towards them. “Now shoot me!”

Jakhara’s hands found her bow and they notched one of her unique red flectched arrows. Natan nodded at her and he saw her expression set as she drew the string. The door at the end of the hallway burst open as Jakhara loosed and Natan felt a searing pain scream into his shoulder.

He fell to the ground, clutching at the arrow buried deeply there as over his head he saw Ser Robrik and Ser Tommen barrel into the hall.

Natan pointed frantically at Jakhara. “She shot me!” he cried. “She’s betrayed us! After her!”

Jakhara was already halfway down the hall. The armored knights gave chase but the weight of their plate kept them from true pursuit.

Jakhara had escaped the city, sighted heading north. She had found a way through the walls and with Horse under her, no one could catch her.

Natan sat on the Iron Throne as Grand Maester Erreck finished bandaging his shoulder. Despite the late hour, the Red Keep was ablaze with activity. Countless people approached Natan, giving their condolences on his injury and swearing vengence upon the traitor. He agreed with each one, issuing his own angry assurances that she would be dealt with accordingly.

Toten Wyl approached near the end, and many hands were upon swords as he did, Ser Jordayne even stepping closer to the king.

The vice had hardened into icy spears that bit into Natan’s heart as Toten fell before him.

Natan steeled himself for what came next, assuring Toten that his lover was a traitor, and that she would be punished with death.

Hours had passed and finally Natan pushed himself to his feet. Ser Robrik shadowed him closely. Natan made his way to the privy and opened the door. Ser Robrik made to follow him.

“I think I can manage myself, Robrik,” Natan said, putting a hand on the old knight’s breastplate.

“I think we should exercise caution, Your Grace,” Robrik replied, looking worried.

“It’s one room and unless an assassin can fit inside the chamber pot, I think we’ll be alright.”

“As you say, Your Grace,” Robrik relented, though he still seemed unsure.

Natan went inside and shut the door. He fell back against the wall and clapped a hand over his mouth to muffle short screams as sobs began to shake his body.

He spent as long as possible in the confines of the room without arousing suspicion and then composed himself. Robrik fell back into close step with him as he emerged. Natan had business to attend to.

Yet one thought remained, even after the screams and sobs had faded, even days and weeks later when sleep still wouldn’t come to him and he lay awake, staring wide eyed into the night.

What have I done?

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Natan Lanncaster's Log 15

Men were screaming and dying. Fires burned in the bay. Ships crashed into each other as men fell into the sea, arrows sticking out of their bodies.

Natan watched it from north of the city. Even so far away he could hear the yells and the clangs of weapons. He fidgeted, wanting to make his move, but he had to wait. He knew he had to wait, everything he’d learned over the last several months had taught him that.
It didn’t make it easy.

He winced as a ship bearing the flag of the royal navy was split in two by a massive ram.

Things didn’t look good. The number of ships in the bay was staggering. The heavy transports made their way towards the Blackwater Rush and their sheer numbers made it look like their landing was inevitable. They swarmed closer and closer and still the royal forces clustered near the mouth of the bay.

Then, Natan’s confidence in Asha paid off as she made her move. The royal navy rams surged forward, plowing into the oncoming transports so completely that they entangled their movement. Any effort forward met with a steel ram spilling their into the bay.

Natan watched a moment more and then saw his moment as the raiders of the dothraki fleet spread out around the mouth of the bay. He jogged back down the hill he was on and swung himself up into a saddle.

He patted the red scales beneath him. “Perzys ānogar,” the king called out, and the massive wings of Gabrella unfurled. They beat once, twice, and by the third they were a hundred feet in the air. Their shadow fell across the sea below. Eyes that had been widened by the dragons Jhakara had led out into the field nearly bulged from their sockets at the sight of Gabrella, Natan nestled between two ridges on her head.

The first swarm of ships drew closer beneath them. Natan eyed them as they turned nets and ballistas towards them.

“Drakarys.”

Red flame spread the distance in a blink and a blaze engulfed the ships below in an inferno that colored everything a deep blood red in the morning light. Forty ships gone in an instant.

More quickly followed as Asha’s tact at the mouth of the Rush halted all but a few transports from making it through. The raiders reversed their oars and made for open sea as quickly as they could. Asha kept her ships close to the bay so they wouldn’t get trapped individually.

That wouldn’t stop a dragon.

Natan wheeled about and dove after them, fire pouring from Gabrella. Her roars rolled over the water and Natan was sure they would be heard as far as the free cities. They chased and burned for some time, until the city was nothing but a faint blur against the horizon. Finally, they turned back.

Bodies were being pulled from the wreckage of royal ships. Most dead. Some only wishing they were. Natan landed and got reports as quickly as he could. They had done well. There were losses, but the victory was definitely theirs.

Hours later, the cleanup was still in process and Natan helped where he could. A runner found him quickly and pressed a parchment from a raven into his hands. Natan’s eyes scanned it.

“What is it?” Arya asked, shifting their son Jon from one hip to another.

“Another invasion force was spotted in the north,” he said, looking out towards the destruction left floating in the bay.

“At least three times as large as this one.”

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Lanncaster Log 19

Toten knelt next to his bed in the Red Keep. The bells had already sounded briefly in anticipation on what was coming on the morrow. Toten looked out the window into the darkness beyond, and his shoulders shook.

It’s happening again, he thought, old memories surfacing quickly and terribly. War is here…and I have to lose more people that I love.

His sword lay on the bed before him, glinting coldly in the light from the moon outside. He had said he would never pick up a blade again after his last war, but more and more lately he had been forced to draw it. He tried to maintain his composure but the loss swarmed over him and tears fell from his eyes. Old friends swam before him. Tygor, smiling the same grin that his son now wore so often. Loras, swaggering down hallways. Jaime.

Gods, Jaime, Toten gasped in his mind, a fresh surge of tears streaming from him.

Toten rose and staggered to the window. He searched the sky desperately, looking, looking for her.

But he couldn’t find her. He hadn’t been able to for two days.

He slumped into a chair and hung his head in despair, aches that had nothing to do with the physical spreading through him.

A cool hand touched his shoulder, his cheek. He looked up. It was her. As she always had been. Pale silver hair trailing down her lean back, a light flowing pink dress wafting behind her. Toten’s heart stopped.

She knelt in front of him, the pale glow of the moon lighting her beautifully. She took his face in her hands. “You have to be strong, my love,” she whispered. Her voice was full of life and passion, an eagerness and caring flowing through the words. “You need to be king.”

Toten searched her smooth face, pouring deep into her violet eyes. “I’m not the king,” he managed. “Not anymore.”

“You have always been my king,” she said, a fierceness to her voice. “And my king always does what he has to, to make things better for his people.”

A fresh wave of sadness rolled over Toten. “I just want to be with you again,” he said. “Why can’t I be where you are?”

She drew him close to her and held him tightly, shushing him. “Now isn’t your time, love,” she said. “You have to stay. You have to protect our family. They need you. Our time will come later.”

Toten held her for what seemed like only seconds when she finally pulled away.

“They need you,” she said, authority pouring from her. “Take care of the children, Toten. You need to take care of them.”

Toten nodded, understanding. He needed her words to push him forward, to set him on his course. He always had.

As much as he hated it, as much as he wanted to put down his blade forever, Toten would pick it up for his family, for what was right. His son needed him. His daughter needed them. Their children and the friends they all shared who were so much more. Toten’s family was far reaching, from far in the north to the south of Dorne. Toten’s family was Westeros. And he would fight for his family to the end.

She knelt down and kissed his forehead, knowing in her eyes. She stepped away, towards the window, but Toten held onto her hand.

“Stay…” he said, not letting go. “Please stay, Gabby.”

Gabby smirked, all fire. “I can’t, you know I can’t.” She danced out of his grasp, all feminine curves and lithely made her way to the window. “But I’m always around. Just in case.” She winked.

Toten smiled and looked down. When he looked back up she was gone. He walked over to the window again and let the cool air wash away the last of his uncertainty.

He looked to the sky as come clouds moved past, a bright shining star revealed in their wake.

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Natan Lanncaster's Journal 14

“Command is the trickiest part of warfare, son,” Toten Lanncaster said as he walked through the halls of the Red Keep with the king.

Natan paid close attention to the words. He’d spent the last couple of months studying with Ser Robik and Ser Tommen Lannister. Robrik had taken him away from the capital for weeks, running mock war games for Natan, putting him through the paces of how things operated in the field. Surprisingly, the young king had taken to it rather quickly. It seemed that years of pulling cons across the sea had lent itself to thinking quickly and on the fly.

Tommen’s lessons had proved more difficult. They spent days pouring over maps, setting up old battles and campaigns. Natan tried to arrange his miniature forces to overcome Tommen’s but he was bested more often than not. The on the fly thinking that had helped with tactics was not the same as was needed for the long range thinking that was needed to arrange troops to win battle after battle, each setting up the next five after it. Natan had made progress, but it was taking time that they didn’t have.

Now it was time to learn command from the most legendary battlefield commander in living memory.

“In the heat of battle, with everything happening all at once, the most important thing is to keep your men focused and listening, to keep them fighting for their purpose,” Toten continued. “It doesn’t matter how well you set up your forces, or how many good orders you give, if they aren’t followed by men still committed to your cause.”

“Well,” Natan said, keeping pace with his fathers longer stride. “How do you do it? How do you give them the meaning?”

They walked a few moments in silence.

“You don’t,” Toten said softly.

“But you just said that’s what I have to do.”

“And it’s true. But you can’t give it to them, Natan. You have to be the best that you can be. You can never waver. They’ll look to you to find it, you can be their guide, but you can’t make them believe.”

Natan watched questioningly as his father turned to face him.

“You won’t want to hear this, but sometimes there aren’t problems that you can run away from, Natan.”

The words stung, but the young king knew that they weren’t spoken harshly, but of necessity, and he nodded. “I guess I should cancel that boat to Southros, huh?”

His father smiled genuinely. “It might not be a bad idea,” he replied as they resumed walking.

“There’s more,” he said a few steps down the hall.

“You mean it doesn’t stop at just being perfect?” Natan joked again.

His father smiled again, though this time it was smaller and sadder. “I wish it did.” Natan’s father was quiet for a long time. Natan knew his father well enough to wait. “You’ll lose people,” the former king said. “People you care about. Friends.” Natan looked up and saw a haunted look on his father’s face, etched into lines that somehow seemed deeper and longer than they had before. It could have been the flickering light of torches as they passed, but Natan suspected it was deeper seated.

“What’s worse,” his father continued. “Is that you’ll be the one who kills them.”

Those words stopped Natan in his tracks. He blinked up at his father, and the older man turned sad eyes upon his son, his expression that of a parent who knows he’s just shattered part of his child’s innocence. The king blinked up at his predecessor, unease and confusion on his sharper features.

“It’s not the same as other fights you’ve had. This won’t be a few people making their own decision to follow you somewhere that might be dangerous. You will order people to die,” Toten emphasised each word. “It has to be done. Quickly. Decisively. You won’t have time for remorse.” He shook his head slightly. “The remorse will come later.”

“I…I understand,” Natan said quietly, his mind working furiously through situations and outcomes, each more terrifying than the last.

“I know you do, son,” Toten said, putting his strong arm around Natan. “You’re a good king.”

They walked again and turned into the throne room. During the day it was filled with dozens of petitioners and politicians but at this hour it was only filled with the dancing shadows cast out from the large braziers throughout the room.

“There’s one last thing,” Natan’s father saidas they strode across the room.

“What’s that? Don’t tell me that I have to do it all while hanging upside down in my smallclothes,” Natan chuckled, trying to lighten the mood.

Then an anvil struck him in the back and threw him forward to the ground. Natan scrambled and turned to see his father standing over him, beginning to draw a sword at his side. “What are you doing?!” Natan yelled, scrambling further back as his father advanced.

“You always have to be prepared for the unexpected,” Toten Lanncaster scowled.

“Ok, I get it! Calm down!” Natan rolled away as his fathers sword struck the ground where he’d been, sparks flashing.

“You have to beat me,” Toten snarled, stalking his son around a column.

“What are you talking about? I can’t beat you! That’s crazy!” Natan barely ducked out of the way of another blow.

“You have to,” Toten pleaded. “You have to figure out a way.” He struck again, narrowly missing his mark. “Your enemies aren’t going to wait to meet you squarely on the battlefield. They’re going to be stronger than you are. They’re going to have more men. They’re going to have more resources. They are going to beat you. And you still have find a way to win.” Each sentence was punctuated with another slash, another thrust, another near miss.

Natan dodged again around a column, trying to think of a way out of the room, but his father was too tactical, he’d maneuvered to be between his son and the doors. Natan faked a dodge around a column and spun, lashing out, but not at his father. He pushed at one of the braziers as hard as he could. The metal seared his hands but he didn’t let up and the brazier crashed to the ground, spreading fire across the floor and cutting off Toten for a precious moment.

Natan looked past his father’s shoulder, his eyes widening. “Tommen! Help!” Toten spun to face the threat of one of the most feared members of the kingsguard, but saw nothing but an empty room. He made to whirl back around, but a dagger was already pressed against his throat. Toten smirked and sheathed his sword.

“Very good.”

Natan put his dagger away and shook pain out of his burned hands.

“Well,” the king said, looking at his hands. “I am the son of the great commander.”

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Natan Lanncaster's Journal 13

My fellow Westrosians.

It has been over twenty years since our fathers went to war in the north. Twenty years in which we have had long summers and bountiful harvests, and general peace throughout the country while all of us affected by those old wars have tried to recover and rebuild ourselves and our families.

It is my somber responsibility to tell you that war is upon us once again. We have had reports that a large horde of Dothraki have ransacked several cities in Essos, and are now going against their nature and boarding vessels with the full intention of sailing to our shores.

According to these reports, their numbers are large.

However, our resolve will be stronger. It must be stronger.

Recent events have strained some of our ideals, and shone light on the differences that we have. Our enemies do not share the various beliefs that spread throughout our country.
They fight behind the shroud of illusion perpetrated by their misguided leader.

It is the belief of your king, that the differences that flow throughout our lands, lend strength to those that hold them. Our ability to overcome these differences and bring ideas together, will lead us to greater strength and to the utmost victory.

Many of you who partake in these faiths will undoubtedly feel confusion. To those who pray to the seven and the seven in flesh, I remind you that the Crone leads you with wisdom, that the Smith builds for your future, and the Mother nurtures you in times of peace. But the Warrior exists to fight against evils which seek to overcome you.

To those who pray to R’hllor, I remind you that the night is dark and full of terrors, and it is the fire of man that keeps the darkness at bay.

I call out now to all the people of Westeros, to prepare yourselves for invasion.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people and our territories are in grave danger. There will be dark days ahead.

But know that your king will fight with you in this hour of need. Our defenses will be as strong as our offenses are swift, and the determination of all of us together will lead to absolute victory. With this confidence, I call now upon all the banners of the seven kingdoms, to stand united in the state of war that now exists with the hordes of the Dothraki.

So long as we remain faithful to our cause, unbridled in our unity, we will prevail through to inevitable victory.

Proclamation of War between the country of Westeros and the Horde of the Dothraki

Given in the year 326AC

King Natan Lanncaster
The first of his name, known as the Lost Prince, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.

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Natan Lanncaster's Journal 12

Ah, sweet sweet relief.

And yet it tastes a hell of a lot more bitter than I thought it would. I try to get the country somewhere ahead and yet something always sets me two or three or a million steps back.

Although it was somewhat satisfying to leave behind nothing of the High Septon besides a char on the stones. If it wasn’t for the riot, I might have gotten around to real appreciation.

I’m so tired of these religious triffles. Religion is killing more people than it’s saving lately. It was lucky that I have a flair for the dramatic though, Viserion gave me the edge I needed to cut down on the casualties. That’s strange to say, isn’t it? A dragon helped me cut down on casualties. If Aegon the Conquerer could see us now.

I saved as many as I could.

That’s what I’ll have to tell myself.

It’s not enough.

Being the king sucks.

I don’t know if anyone else will ever read this, if it’ll get passed on to whoever, but if anyone is reading this, you should definitely know:

Being the king sucks.

With the High Septon out of the picture, thank the gods, a new High Septon has to be chosen, right? Sounds simple enough.

Right up until your small council tells you that you should put a different sort of monster in his place because they think he can be controlled if needed. As if this country hasn’t had enough tyrants, now they want to give the throne power over religion too. Oh, but “only if absolutely necessary.”

I’ve heard that before. That’s how it starts. “Well it would be easy if we just got a little help from the High Septon.” “Well, his influence did a lot for us last time, we should tell him to do this for us this time.” “Just tell the church to do it.” “We’re going to absorb the offices of the High Septon, it’ll make it easier to get information to everyone quicker.”

I don’t think so.

I’m not going to turn the throne into a religious power as well. It shouldn’t be. King or not, no one should have that much power at his control. He could ruin the country with that sort of influence.

I guess they’re just all lucky that I’m such a reasonable, and more importantly, handsome, ruler.

Sometimes this job is filled with some terrible things.

Like finding out a few days ago that Lord Piping Hot Temper of Nowheretown slew Patrek Mallister, one of the actual good people I’ve met. Patrek tried to uphold ideas that I supported, and it cost him his life.

And what’s worse is that since it was trial by combat, there’s little to be done about it. Innocent by all the laws of the gods and men.

But that doesn’t mean that gods and men can’t have loopholes.

All it takes is a little patience, a little wit, and a friend who knows his way around a spear, at least a little.

At least now the quabbling in the riverlands should be over. I hope. War is coming if the reports are to be believed. I can’t have any of these petty problems if I’m going to have hordes spilling onto the shores.

So I goaded Lord Short Fuse into threatening the king. Can you believe it? Shocking how a man can forget himself like that. And with just a few simple words during a conversation. And against a king no less. The laws of gods and men are pretty clear about things like that. Very unfortunate for now deceased former lords of riverlands towns.

Sometimes this job is filled with some wonderful justifiable things.

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Natan Lanncaster's Journal 11

I don’t have time for this.

Trouble in the Riverlands is about the last thing that I need right now. The “Warrior” takes three castles and the “nobles” of the area want me to crush them beneath the heel of my nice shiny boots.

But of course there was going to be a revolt after all the things that have been done to them! I’d rather stay in the capital and deal with the High Septon since, in essence, he’s the one behind it.

If I don’t go, then I’ll look weak and the tensions will rise until something gives.

If I do go and take care of it, someone walks away unhappy, whether it’s the lords or the smallfolk. Yet I’d rather deal with a handful of unhappy lords than with tens of thousands of workers.

I’ve seen a lot in Essos, and I’ve read my histories, Uncle Lons made sure of that, so I know how dangerous the people we see as “peasants” can be when they want to be.

That Lord Piper is a fool. I’m sure I haven’t heard the last of him.

I’m trying to help the entire realm avoid a catastrophe and he’s worried about his ego. He’s lucky his ego didn’t have to run into an army of thousands. I don’t care how ill equiped they are, they’d overwhelm guards and what forces they had left. And what’s worse, they’d do it from inside their own households, not on an organized battlefield.

I hope I made a stong enough example of him. I can’t have people in his position questioning me. Not with the country on the brink. Not with those reports from across the sea.

Should I have killed him? Mother might have. I don’t know if Father would. But then, people never talked to them that way to begin with. I can only do the best I can, I suppose.

I’d prefer a straight up fight, just me and someone else, where I can talk them over to my way instead. It would be far simpler.

At least I have the trial to look forward to.

I’ll finally be able to put the High Septon behind me as soon as we get back to King’s Landing and be able to relax.

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The Final Lesson

Lons had spent his entire life searching for knowledge. A never ending quest that took him down many roads, both dark and bright, straight and meandering. He’d found his fill of knowledge in a kaleidoscope of forms: economics, psychology, language, love. Now, in the last hours of his life, he’d seen the family he’d come to love with his whole being. Ser Robrik came by, the old bear of a knight still as strong and good-natured as ever. Daenerys, still the warm hearted ruler he’d known in Essos. King Natan made his appearance. The young man had much learning ahead of him, but he had a good heart and a strong mind. He’d be a strong king, and Lons was sure of it. Lyene, Saul and the rest of his immediate family drifted in, giving tearful goodbyes and promises of a duty that would be well-served. And the last to enter was a man who he’d come to have a great respect for. A friend he’d come to know as a brother. That man sat beside him, even in Lons’ final hours.

“Have I ever told you the story of the greatest Maester, man and friend I’ve ever known?” Toten said. Tears flowed freely from the both of them. Lons smiled, responding softly “No, I don’t believe I’ve heard that one Toten.” Lons said, a cough wracking his body. Both of them knew there wasn’t much time left, but it didn’t seem to matter. The world fell away and left them to their reveries. Just two men reliving a life spent in dedication and friendship. Not dedication to ideal or country, though that played its’ part. Above all else, it was a stalwart dedication to each other that had gotten them through trials that would have broken lesser men.

But, as it is said; All men must die.
They sat and spoke for what seemed like hours. At some point, Lons drifted off into the next realm. Lons felt his body slip away and knew, vaguely, what lie ahead. He had one last journey to make.

Toten sat beside Lons for some time, the aging king beside the man who had stood beside against the tide of undead hell from the North, stood beside him when all of Westeros had turned against him. Even worlds away, Lons had been at his side. He had lasted three days longer than any of the Maesters had predicted he would, astonishing everyone with his tenacitous grip on his life. Now, with his final goodbyes said, he was ready to finally leave this world.

Stonewing flitted down between the two of them, head turning to look between the two of them, before uttering the first word he had in days. The one friend he hadn’t said goodbye to bounced off the headboard, gently preening at the still intertwined hands of the men he’d travelled the world with.

“Friend.” he cawed, jumping into the air with several graceful wingbeats.

Lons felt himself separate from his body, feeling a coolness wash over him as he felt himself following Stonewing. He glanced back for a moment, seeing Toten sitting next to what used to be his body. The sight of the old king was heartbreaking, knowing that he’d lost one more firend in a long line of loss, but still had the courage to keep an open heart and keen humor. He smiled as he was reminded of the day Toten had cornered him playing Pots and Pans knights with the children at Rockfall… “Oh Gods! It’s the Melee Maester himself!” Toten had yelled. They’d laughed. Perhaps he should have felt sad, but he found himself only excited for what the next world might be. Goodbyes had been said, and it was time to move on. Tyene would be there, somewhere, he knew. Marwyn too. Gabby. All the people who had left him far too soon. He was dimly aware of the wind whipping past him as Stonewing carried him through the window of the red keep. He was soaring over the city, flying for the first time in 2 years. It was still as exhilirating as ever and he would have smiled had he still the body to do it with. Below him, the city rolled by, showing the familiar sights he’d grown to love. The city was moving on, even now. Trade flourished, artisans crafted their wares, regiments drilled in the yard…. They were moving on without him.

No, they were moving on because of him, and because of his friends. That work was past him now.

He’d set them on the path, and it was now up to them to steer the course well.

Stonewing was flying towards a crevice between two buildings nestled in Flea Bottom. Lons recognized the area. He’d found Kirkland nearby. He’d met Ser Tommen Tommen in his humble roots there. Stonewing pulled into a dive, approaching the narrow passage with the same confidence that he’d had since Lons had first been given to him at Rockfall.

Lons could see the opening now, clearly glistening in the alley. Lons felt the foggy embrace of the veil pulled back from his consciousness. His work in this world was done and he’d left it to a team of legendary people to continue to run Westeros. King Natan would do more than fine. He had the genes of a warrior, and the heart and mind of a well-read and well-travelled man.

As he slipped through that final door, he heard the last word he’d hear in the world of Westeros. There was no need for him to return the sentiment. Lons had done that with a lifetime of service and friendship, and he knew they understood.
“Bye!” Stonewings voice carried across the void.
Stonewing climbed and flew North. Westeros held nothing for the old bird anymore. Other winds called to him as he climbed into the setting sun, heart following an uncharted path for the first time in the better part of a century.

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