Bow of the North



chapter 45 - Troubling Capital


A note from coinhas2sides

sorry got the order of chapters wrong, this should have come out yesterday.

Varys POV

I listen to the pitter patter of the rain as it strikes the steps. The light drizzle is a welcome respite compared to the heated tensions of the previous days. I think over the past week that led up to this event, starting from that farce of a trial.

After Joffrey was killed there was pandemonium. The king had just been killed by an archer on his coronation day, in front of 20 thousand people. To say they were angry and confused would be an understatement. They were shouting and demanding answers which no one could reply.

Despite calling ourselves members of the small council, Pycell, Baelish and I have never been the ones to leap to the front and take charge, though I didn’t want to and I am almost certain the others didn’t. Pycell was hiding behind the guards, not even bothering to check on the king and Queen, only concerned with making himself as small of a target as possible.

Baelish and I shared a similar position to the Grand maester, though our minds were elsewhere. Baelish was likely wondering how he could turn the situation to an advantage, while I was adjusting already made plans. Just like that the leaders of the country were either dead, comatose, injured or hiding. No one was able or willing to lead in that situation, it was all we could do to retreat under the protection of the guards back to the Red Keep.

The Goldcloaks were less than useless in suppressing the riot. The ones closest to where Baskerville disappeared from took a full minute to decide whether they should pursue him or not, and by then it was only because they were mounted and beat or killed whoever stood in their way that they made it through the mob. Their actions only made the situation worse.

When the peasants witnessed an execution followed by an assassination, they are understandably scared. When guards start attacking the crowd, that leads to thoughts that they might be next. They lashed out, at the guards, at each other, everyone. They soon turned their attention to the shops and houses to opportunistically raid some goods in the confusion. The thousand Goldcloaks in the plaza were hopeless to stop it, and the commander, Janos Slynt, gave the order to pull back to the keep.

He didn’t just pull back the thousand guarding the plaza however, no. He called for a full retreat. Except for the ones responsible for the wall, every Goldcloak was told to retreat to the Red Keep. ‘To protect the Royal family’ Janos stated in his defence, though few believed that. Without the Goldcloaks supressing the riots, it spread from the plaza to the entire city. For 5 days the Goldcloaks only defended the Red Keep and several of the wealthiest districts, the rest of the city was left to burn.

It was only two days ago, when Barristan Selmy recovered slightly, that the situation became under control. His wounded hand was fortunately not his main hand, and once he had recovered from the wound enough to stand, he asked Tommen, the recently named king, for permission to suppress the riot. He led 500 men and showed the world why he was called ‘Barristan the Bold’.

He led his men from street to street, suppressing the riot and forcing people back into the houses, announcing a city-wide curfew. Anyone that resisted or fought back was either disarmed or killed. After fighting for 2 days straight, without any sleep or food, the majority of the city was calm again, with the remaining parts scared that they would be next. There were only 450 men left alive from the initial force, and Barristan himself collapsed last night, overwhelmed by his wounds and tired body. Tommen had Pycell check on him and he said he would recover, though the wound was worsened and infected in the fighting and would need weeks of treatment and bed-rest.

Tommen’s first declaration, at my suggestion, was to award Selmy with a medal for his bravery and courage. The Goldcloaks returned to the city and maintained the fragile peace, while my birds returned to me from their nests, giving me the news from the city. They were bad to say the least.

Casualties among the Goldcloaks reached 234, the highest they have ever been since the Lannisters attacked Kings Landing during Robert’s Rebellion. The deaths among the common-folk was among the thousands, with countless injured and dozens of businesses destroyed. The damage would usually take a year to repair, restoring the hearts and confidence of the people even longer. In this time of conflict, where most of our funds are going to the war effort, it could lead to unexpected rises in certain factions which feed off the chaos. My birds tell of several cults that were previously a minority have gained momentum.

Then there were the rumours. The death of Joffrey, especially the manner in which it was done, has led to many interpretations. The way Ser Baskerville was portrayed was particularly interesting.

The uninformed, those that didn’t recognise or see Ser Baskerville, are divided on the subject. Some believe that he was the personification of the Stranger, the member of the Seven responsible for the death. The gods were angry at the king for insulting the gods, though the manner in which they were insulted differs depending on who you ask, and thus sent the Stranger to rid Joffrey from this world. Most of the Goldcloak deaths came from this group who led several attacks on the guards who were, ‘soldiers of the heretic’.

Another group also blamed the death on the gods, though this time the Old Gods. They say Eddard Stark called upon an evil spirit of the North to kill Joffrey. The few Northerners still in the city were suffering much from this group, many were killed for worshipping the evil ones.

The ones that either recognised Baskerville, or believed those that did, have a story that while much more realistic, is still incorrect. They say that Ser Baskerville was sent by Robb Stark to kill both the king and his father. With them both dead he could become Warden of the North and contend for the crown. Not only is it incorrect, but it is impossible. The capture and trial of Ned was conducted all within a few days, sending a message to the North and back would have taken too long. No, this group is just gossipers trying to piece together the puzzle.

I don’t blame the third group for their assumption, as it is currently the most likely explanation as to why Baskerville shot Ned. Killing Joffrey in revenge I could understand, but shooting Ned when he was just about to be executed? I can only conclude that either Ben had a grudge against Ned for some unknown reason, or there was some other motivation.

As I walk down the path, wishing the rain had come several days ago so it could have put out the fires, I come upon an unlikely ally for today’s meeting. Lord Baelish joins me on the same path as we make our way to the small council chamber.

I and he have always been at odds when it came to court. We both had similar techniques to survive though we pursued different goals. For years we have engaged one another, though no one could ever tell when it was happening. I would weave my web and wait for him to enter it, while he would wait from his perch for the moment I let down my guard and exposed myself. We would both wait for the other to make that fatal slip that would lead to our demise. It never came. There were many opportunities, for both of us, but we were both too cautious and feared they were traps, which some were, thus we never struck and the opportunity passed.

These past few days have only heightened our struggles, though not to wound each other. Instead we each tried to become the voice that wielded Tommen, the young cub, and newly appointed king. With the Hands removed and the queen consumed by her grief, there were only 4 other members left. Barristan was injured and Pycell was useless, leaving only myself and Baelish to lead Tommen. I regret having to manipulate such an innocent boy, but I cannot leave the only potential heir that can keep the Seven kingdoms united and away from the warring periods of the past.

Joffrey and Viserys are dead, though they were lost causes in the end so i should be thankful for the saved effort, while Daenerys lost her dothraki army and was last seen in Qarth. I have very few eyes there, the distance is great and the local powers keep a tight leash on the information network. The Black Dragons, a criminal organisation that specialises in assassination and spying, are particularly defensive with foreign operators in the city. Even without them I see very little chance in those sly merchants to invest in a child with only a good name and nothing else. No, Tommen is the only reasonable choice remaining.

He has the name, the backing, and unlike his brother is a kind and merciful boy. If Tywin succeeds in his conflict, we can broker a peace with the other lords through several methods and create a kingdom run by a just and merciful king, who will hopefully live for many years. That is only if Baelish keeps his claws off him.

He has already taken advantage of Barristan and Jaime’s absence to push Ser Manden closer to the king by making him in charge of the kings protection. Manden came from the Vale, brought by Lord Arryn, and has a reputation as a skilled warrior and loyal man. Which is true, he is loyal. What few knows is that his loyalty has already been bought.

Ser Manden has a younger sister, and many years ago his brother-in-law earned a huge debt from some disreputable traders, and as compensation they took the sister as compensation. Manden was unable to afford the ransom, but he was lucky to be saved by one Peytr Baelish, who returned his sister to Manden and in return Manden swore his loyalty to Baelish. Fewer people still know that it was actually Baelish who controlled the original money lenders and had them take the sister in the first place. I have never found the evidence for it and likely never will now. After some time, I suspect Baelish will suggest Manden to take over as Kingsguard commander since Barristan is injured.

Now our time for competing has had to be put on hold, as the lions are returning to the court and we are trapped between two opposing prides. Last night a number of Ravens arrived in Kings Landing, all from Tywin Lannister, and addressed to each of the members of the small council and Cersei.

To Cersei he told her that she was to not harm Sansa, she was needed alive to negotiate peace. To us, he ordered us to keep Sansa safe from Cersei, or he would have all our heads on pikes. That is not an idle threat. Robert might have needed us around to run his kingdom for him, but Tywin Lannister once managed this kingdom almost single handily for decades, when he served as hand of the king under Aerys Targaryen. He would have no issues with killing us because we are a threat, and replacing us with some less skilled, but loyal, replacements.

With those few letters he quickly got the court running how he wanted it, all without being in the capital. Most admirable. I look sideways at Baelish, and he looks back. We both sigh at the coming war we are about to begin.

When Cersei read her fathers letter, all her grief turned to rage. Her father did not ask after her, or even mention her dead son, and Tywin’s grandson. Even Tommen was left from the message. The only thing he spoke about was the daughter of Ned Stark, and reminded her of her enemies. I suspect Tywin knew Cersei wouldn’t leave Sansa alone. She always had a habit of toeing around her fathers instructions when he wasn’t around to watch her in person. Cersei wouldn’t kill Sansa, probably, but she would likely make her life a living hell. That was where he told us to interfere.

It was fortunate that we had already removed Sansa from her grasp. Sansa’s well-being is one of the few areas I and Baelish were cooperative on. I knew she would be needed for peace, while Baelish wanted to control her for benefits. Whenever he wasn’t manipulating the king, he would be down in the dungeon, speaking to her. We placed her there because the guards are Baelish’s men, while I had long ago identified which servants were loyal to Cersei and which were loyal to Tywin, placing the latter in charge of serving her.

Unfortunately, Cersei has never been one to take insults and rejection well, especially as filled with rage as she was. When she couldn’t punish Sansa, she targeted the people that were preventing her, us. From now on Baelish and I will be contesting with Cersei instead of controlling Tommen. Now that the lioness has awoken, the spider and mockingbird need to unite in order to protect ourselves. Soon Kevan Lannister will arrive in the capital to control the situation, and we will take a back foot.

If it wasn’t for earning Cersei’s wrath, I would be quite pleased with the situation. I only wished to keep Tommen from his mother and Baelish’s influence. Once Kevan Lannister, a capable man, reaches the capital Tommen should be well managed. The ideal situation is if the war ends soon and Tywin can run the kingdom until Tommen grows old enough to stand, without being corrupted by Cersei or Baelish.

Unfortunately, I am restricted in what I can do. My whispers can only help so much, alerting of danger and giving advice to accepting ears.I can only hope the events in the field turn beneficial for us.

A note from coinhas2sides

These past chapters were originally to set the scene for most of the world, give you hints into how the story has changed and will change, though i am not sure i did them very well. Please tell me how you thought they were. 

This will be the last of those, and will try to focus on the main characters point of view more for a while. 

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