After Arya fell asleep, I brought them back to the ship and placed her in my bed. I left Brutus to watch her and signal me when she woke. When she did, I brought her some food and water. When Syrio wanted to see her, I told him he needed to wait. I told Brutus to watch him and not let the man leave while I asked Arya what happened.
I already asked Syrio earlier and his story seemed to check out but I wasn’t taking any chances. He matches the description of what Arya told me about her dancing instructor, the story made sense considering the situation and he didn’t have the attitude of a kidnapper. When I suggested we return to my ship he made no attempt to take Arya elsewhere. He also hasn’t tried to leave before Arya woke up, and any time he asked to see her I escorted him to make sure there was no funny business. If he made even the slightest off motion that looked to silence her for good, I would have shown him a world of pain. I may be against torture as a last method of gathering information, but for those who harm my friends it also adds punishment into the mix, which is just efficient in my book.
I had little worry of his escape considering where we were. I ordered the captain to weigh anchor and take us to the edge of the Blackwater Bay. I did not want us to be too slow to leave and end up either boarded or blockaded. We stopped just a 10 -minute sail from the docks, though this area is considered an unprotected area. It is not protected from storms or from thieves if you park here. We won’t be here long in any event, and we still have a longboat that is used as a life-boat that we can use to send a small team to shore.
He made no suspicious movements during his stay and seemed to show genuine concern for Arya. When Arya woke and was in a suitable state to talk, she admitted to Syrio’s identity as her teacher and saviour. That removed a lot of doubt on my mind about his story, though probably because it was one of the worst possible situations, I asked Arya again in the vain hope it was a lie.
I wasn’t that lucky. The Red Keep was attacked, and it was not an attack from the outside since I and no one else in the city had any idea it was happening. From the fact it was Lannister soldiers that attacked I can assume that it was not the king’s orders. Ned would never commit treason and although Jory said that Ned had a falling out with him, unless Robert went insane, he would never just slaughter the Stark guards and kidnap the children. In fact, it is more likely Aegon has risen from the dead and is commanding dead soldiers considering how much like the past this is. It is almost being repeated for heaven’s sake.
The good news is that they were trying to capture Arya alive. That means at the very least Sansa should also be alive and Ned too if I'm lucky. I don’t know for what reason they have them, it could be anything from hostages to ransoms. All I do know is that it gives me time to rescue them
I gather the crew together and give them a briefing. “Listen up everyone, there has been a change of plans. We are staying here tonight. When the sun is setting, I intend to take the longboat to shore and investigate the situation. I need 5 volunteers to come aboard with me. This is extra work so I will pay them an extra 3 stags each for the job.” I quickly get 5 volunteers, it is always best to motivate rather than threaten, ignoring Ed and Nathan when they try to join. I would have gone alone than take them with me. If the worst happens, I can run away and abandon the crew members if I need to, but I can’t if my family comes. “Alright everyone return to your posts. I will fill in the volunteers on their mission later when we leave.” I dismiss everyone and head to my quarters where Syrio and Arya are waiting. My friends and family join me a second later.
“So boss, what’s the plan?” Ethel has taken to calling me boss since I officially hired him. I felt bad that I was dragging him and the Ravens into this mess when they need to return to the North. Unlike me they belong to a mercenary group and should have headed back a while ago. I decided to make it an official mission and paid them a total of 5 dragons for escorting myself back to the North. The normal pay would be a single dragon, maybe 2, for a security job on a ship like this, so even after paying the company 10% cut they will still make a tidy sum. I can also feel a lot better by treating the Ravens like normal mercenaries rather than friends like Ethel. Don’t get me wrong I like them, but this is a dangerous journey and other than my important people, everyone and thing is disposable.
“We are going to escort the Starks back to the North. Tonight, when it is dark I will row back to the city and scout the situation. The crew chosen will gather information. The gates shut at night so they won’t be able to get inside, but there are a number of bars and skeevy establishments in the FishMarkets outside.” I tell them.
FishMarket is a part of the city that has earned an unofficial name. Just like Flea Bottom is the slum district in the city, FishMarket is another poor area, though slightly better. It is primarily an area for the dock workers and fishermen who live in kings Landing but can’t afford better houses inside the walls. It is rarely visited by the guards so there is quite a lot of crime there.
“The rules on weapons aren’t applied outside the gates so they will carry swords to avoid trouble and be given some money to gain information. They will find out if there was anything interesting happening today or if there are any announcements for the next few days. I will be scouting the area for weak spots.” I inform them. The gates are always patrolled and I don’t have time to find the smugglers who could get me through the walls of the city. The walls that surround the Red Keep are largely undermanned however. It is due to their confidence that no one could breach them.
The rear walls are defended by sheer 50-metre-tall cliffs followed by another 30 metres of castle walls. The walls have been wiped flat by the wind and water so there are no handholds that lead to the top. No one could throw a grapple high enough and no ladder is long enough that wouldn’t easily be spotted. Even if you could get up it is impossible to get enough up there to be a threat. There are hundreds of guards patrolling the grounds at all times not to mention the servants who would call the alarm if you eventry to sneak to the main building. Even if you got a dozen men up there, there is no way they made it fully armoured and would be quickly killed by the elite guards.
I am the exception. With qi I could harden and sharpen a pair of knives to use as climbing spikes. With qi enforced arrows I could create steps for myself by plunging them into the rockface, also helping with making an escape route. Like that I could get to the top with my bow, knives and sword. If it was the day or I was heading to the main building, then I would probably be spotted. But since I will invade at night and head to the dungeons, there will be little to no servant traffic and only guards to deal with, which will be scattered. My plan is to scout the ideal place to infiltrate and see if the crew can find any information about what the situation is. I will then bring the appropriate number of people and equipment to bring them out the following night.
Depending on the situation I may need to create a diversion the following day. If Ned and Sansa are in the dungeons, and I actually hope they are, then I will not only have to kill the guards but somehow get them out of the Red Keep. I could try to find Arya’s way, but the path is well hidden and she can’t describe the exact positioning of the exit, or the way it leads to the exit. From what she told me there were several other paths that she doesn’t know where they go. I will not risk getting lost down there where I could be surrounded by guards in pursuit, if the route and exit isn’t already found and guarded.
When Syrio and Arya were fleeing they said guards were following them into the dungeon. They will have realised that she is no longer in the Red Keep and be on the look-out for how she escaped. The dungeon will be inspected top to bottom and even if they haven’t found the exit to the path the entrance will definitely have been discovered.
The front gate is out, obviously, so the only way out is how I got in, and that is working under a lot of assumptions. First, I will have to enter and extract the Starks, all without drawing the attention of the outside patrols. If they realise what I am trying and trap me down in the dungeons, I am dead. If I get them out of the dungeons and we are detected, there is no way I will be able to get them to the walls. A single person, skilled at hiding myself and avoiding scouts, can make the journey across the courtyard easily, 3 raises the chance of detection immensely. If I brought a rope and we all went one after the other it would still take 3 minutes for an experienced climber to get down. For amateurslike them I would put it at 10 for Ned and 20 at least for Sansa, if she even makes it down without falling to her death, which is unlikely. That is all without taking the time to reach the wall by that time we would have been killed.
I haven’t even gotten to the parts where I am assuming they are both there and in perfect physical condition. If they are injured, or if one of them is held somewhere else, I would never get them down, or get them to leave the other. By the way if they are both held in another part of the Keep I am not even going to try to find them. After listing out all my problems and the requirements for a successful operation, watching the chance of success get lower and lower with each point I make...Why am I doing this again?
That is not a joke. I am literally risking my life at best, eternal imprisonment and torture at worst. I like Ned and his children, but I love my family and they are currently all here. I am not a virgin to the cost of war. I have lost friends and loved ones in the past, because of my mistakes and decisions. I have also ordered men to their deaths to achieve a goal. Sometimes it wasn’t even worth it, I have been defeated in battle, both martial and strategically, and both soldiers and civilians have died because of it. This could be just one of those times I need to cut my losses and live to fight another day.
I pace the room, back and forth, debating my decisions. I go over the possible choices, the pros and cons. Everyone had left my room 10 minutes ago to do their respective jobs or to find some distractions. Eventually I find myself leaving my room and am walking along the deck when I see Arya by the side of the boat, staring towards King’s Landing. Nymeria is beside her and is trying to comfort her. Tears fall from her face and drop into the ocean.
I have known that girl for 4 years now, and not once have I ever seen her cry. When she tripped and fell, scrapes and bruises covering her, she gets back up. When knocked down, she doesn’t take it, she knocks back. When life gets hard, she gets harder. I am suddenly reminded of when I had defeated Jaime and Ned asked to speak to me. He said, ‘I swear to you Ser Baskerville, by the gods New and Old, if you protect my family, I will protect yours’. A smile comes to my lips. Damn you Stark, well played.
I walk up to Arya and place my hand on her head. “Cheer up brat. I can’t promise that I will get your family back, but I will try my damned best. And if I fail, I will make the ones responsible know what it means to anger the pack. THE NORTH REMEMBERS!!! HA HA HA!!” I laugh, my decision made. My family is on the ship, they will make it back to the North whether I am on it or not. Far as I am concerned, I have already gotten an extension of 20 years on a life that should have ended. I have no regrets on how I ended my life in the old one, at peace surrounded by loved ones. But for this one, if it is going to end in the next few days, it will end in a bang.